Bills on social media use in schools, term limits, graduation fix signed by DeSantis, social studies texts accepted, and more

Education bills signed: Five education bills approved by the Legislature were signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. They are: H.B. 379, which prevents K-12 students from using social media or cell phones at school; H.B. 477, which limits local school board members to eight years in office; H.B. 1537, which includes a fix in the test scores high school seniors need to graduate and creates a pilot program for year-round schooling; S.B. 256, which blocks automatic deduction for union dues from teachers’ paychecks; and H.B. 1035, which extends the life of a temporary teaching certificate from three to five years, allows teachers to discipline students to preserve class safety and provides teachers with a “bill of rights.” DeSantis also approved spending $1.05 billion during the 2023-2024 school year for teacher raises. “I’m just glad that we have a lot folks in the state of Florida, in the Legislature, as well as in our administration, who take this seriously,” DeSantis said. “I think these are going to be really, really significant pieces of legislation.” Politico Florida. Miami Herald. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WTVJ. WPLG. WJXT. WFLA. WTSP. WPEC. News Service of Florida. Associated Press.

Social studies textbooks: State officials rejected 35 percent of the social studies textbooks submitted by publishers because of “political indoctrination,” they acknowledged Tuesday. In some cases, publishers removed content to gain acceptance. Passages stricken or revised included a line encouraging parents to speak with their children about why people kneel during the National Anthem as a protest against racism and police brutality, references to the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 and to George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police in 2020, and passages that suggest socialism “keeps things nice and even and without unnecessary waste” and “may promote greater equality among people while still providing a fully functioning government-supervised economy.” Bryan Griffin, press secretary for Gov. DeSantis, tweeted that “the political indoctrination of children through the K-12 public education system is a very real and prolific problem in this country” and that problematic passages were “All CAUGHT & all FIXED under @GovRonDeSantis’ watch.” Critics said the state is whitewashing history. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. New York Times. Florida Department of Education.

Around the state: Broward County’s school board will reopen its window to apply for the school superintendent’s job after being disappointed with the 26 applications it received, Hillsborough’s school board votes to move ahead with a massive rezoning plan and its decision to close Just Elementary School, Lee school board members vote to join the state’s school guardian program, Charlotte County School Board members decide to hire a Marion County administrator as the district’s new superintendent, and New College of Florida has announced it will accept the “classical and Christian” alternative to the SAT and ACT standardized tests for college admission. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A line from a 16-year-old girl’s poem about her move from Argentina to Miami last year has been emblazoned on a mural outside Miami Beach Senior High School. Valentina Mena’s line is written in both English and Spanish on water tanks overlooking her school: “finding my home in every voice that I hear” and the other “hay un hogar en cada voz que escucho.” It was the first poem Mena wrote. She said seeing the words on the tanks “is like a miracle” and is like a “light in my path to know…what should I do in my future.” Miami Herald.

Broward: After getting just 26 applications for the nsuperintendent’s job that were considered underwhelming, school board members decided Tuesday to reopen the application window until May 16. Board chair Lori Alhadeff said that Jesus Jara, the superintendent of the Clark County School District that includes Las Vegas and is the fifth-largest in the country, contacted her to say he wanted to apply. Later in the day Jara told a newspaper he was honored to be invited to apply, but would stay in Nevada. The board intends to choose semifinalists May 22, finalists on May 30, then select a superintendent June 15. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ. Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Hillsborough: A proposal to change hundreds of school attendance boundaries and close five more schools in 2024 was tentatively approved Tuesday by the school board in a 4-3 vote. A second and final vote will be scheduled next month. The move is expected to save the district $13 million next year, and ease overcrowding at some schools while filling seats at others. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTVT. Board members also voted 4-3 to close Just Elementary School, citing data showing that few students were proficient in math and reading and that nearly half the classes were taught by substitutes. Students will be transferred either to Booker T. Washington or Tampa Bay Boulevard elementary schools, and will have the option of attending magnet programs at Dunbar, Lockhart or Tampa Heights. Superintendent Addison Davis said Just would be renovated and reopened after a year or more, perhaps as a school with a Montessori focus. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFTS. Seven more district schools will get new principals in the fall after the school board approved their appointments at Tuesday’s meeting. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: School board members will vote today on a $2.25 million contract to have metal detectors installed at every district high school. If the proposal is approved, the detectors will be installed as a pilot program in John I. Leonard High School, Palm Beach Lakes Community High Seminole Ridge Community High, and Palm Beach Gardens Community High. Twenty-seven weapons have been confiscated on high school campuses this school year, and at least six of them were guns. WPTV.

Lee: School board members unanimously agreed Tuesday to join the state’s school guardian program, which allows some school employees to be armed in schools after receiving 140 hours of training, as a way of adding to the coverage provided by law enforcement officers already working in schools. WINK.

Brevard: Newly named superintendent Mark Rendell will be paid $250,000 a year and have the use of a district car, school board members decided Tuesday. Rendell, who was selected for the job last week, begins work June 1. Florida Today.

Manatee: Three finalists for the school superintendent’s job will meet members of the community at two events today. The finalists are Doug Wagner, the district’s deputy superintendent of operations; Scott Schneider, the chief of schools in Duval County; and Jason Wysong, deputy superintendent in Seminole County. School board members are expected to choose a superintendent to replace the retiring Cynthia Saunders at their May 16 meeting. Patch.

Collier: A contract for newly named superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli is in limbo after school board members could not come to an agreement on pay or length. Jerry Rutherford and Tim Moshier, the two board members who voted against Ricciardelli for the job, proposed to place her on a one-year contract “to prove herself,” but two others argued that would create an unstable situation. Pay was also a point of contention. As interim, Ricciardelli is being paid $1,000 a day. A $285,000 a year contract was proposed, but Moshier wants to add performance bonuses and Erick Carter wants to find out the average salaries of superintendents around the state before settling on a number. Naples Daily News. Consideration of using the state’s guardian program in schools was also discussed Tuesday at the meeting. No decisions were made. WZVN.

St. Johns: Superintendent Tim Forson is encouraging the school board follow the recent recommendation of a special magistrate to increase teacher pay, with some adjustments to be worked out among negotiators. A contract impasse put the issue before the magistrate, who said teachers have earned the right to raises of $1,522 or $2,029 a year instead of bonuses and that starting teacher pay should be boosted by $1,142, to $48,642. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Leon: A children’s book about the life of tennis star Billie Jean King is now being reviewed by the school district because an elementary school parent complained about it. The book includes a page about King falling in love with and marrying a woman, with King saying, “You can’t choose who you fall in love with. Your heart will tell you.” The complaint was filed 10 days after King criticized Gov. DeSantis and the Parental Rights in Education law, which restricts discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: The appointments of four administrators were approved this week by the school board. Susan Geering will be the principal of Antioch Elementary School, Laurren Seegars will lead Bob Sikes Elementary, Michael Denton was named the assistant principal of Pryor Middle, and Lisa Jones is the new assistant principal at Mary Esther Elementary. Okaloosa County School District.

Bay: Ace of Spades, a book about two black, queer teenagers at a private school, has been banned from the Bay High School library. It was challenged by the local Moms for Liberty chapter. A book review committee recommended it be removed, and the superintendent and the school board agreed. Board member Steve Moss has not read the book but voted to uphold the ban. He said the homosexual content contributed to the decision. “That was one of them, along with the rape and the language and the racism part of it. It was four or five things, but the homophobic relationships was one of the four or five that they mentioned,” he said. WMBB.

Charlotte: Mark Vianello, the chief operating officer for the Marion County School District for the past three years, was selected by school board members Tuesday to become the district’s next superintendent. Vianello, 53, has also taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels and was an elementary and high school principal before serving as a district-level administrative posts overseeing student services and technical education. “I think he will inspire trust and confidence,” said board member Wendy Atkinson. Vianello will succeed the retiring Steve Dionisio. Charlotte Sun. WBBH.

Wakulla: One parent’s complaint prompted the school district to ban the graphic novel Little Rock Nine, which tells the story of nine black students who were denied entrance into the racially segregated Little Rock (Ark.) Central High School in 1957. The U.S. government later intervened and the students were admitted. Officials at the school that initially banned the book, which is written at a 3rd-grade level, said that while it is historically accurate, its subject matter is “difficult for elementary students to comprehend.” It is in middle and high school libraries. New Republic.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida announced Monday that it will accept the “classical and Christian” alternative to the SAT and ACT standardized tests for college admission. Only about 200 colleges accept the Classic Learning Test, and New College would be the first in Florida to do so. “As New College strives to become a world-class liberal arts educational institution, adding the CLT as an accepted testing option for admissions will ensure we are reaching and welcoming students from all walks of life,” said interim president Richard Corcoran. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Daily Caller. Dr. Scott Atlas, the former COVID adviser to President Trump who supported the idea of herd immunity as a response to the pandemic, will speak at the New College commencement May 19 at the Ringling Museum. Tampa Bay Times.

Cost of school threats: Florida has been the state most affected by school shooting threats since July 2022, according to a report from TDR Technology Solutions, which works with districts around the country on school security and tracks threats. Florida has had more threat calls and more students affected at a greater cost to taxpayers than any other state. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: Comparing and contrasting the conversations taking place amongst those actually operating innovative schools and the conversation taking place within the national education policy/education reform commentariat makes one thing clear: one group is interested in next storm questions, and one group is stuck on last storm questions. Mike McShane, Forbes.

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BY NextSteps staff