Bill banning teacher training with ‘identity politics’ signed, public union dues withholding, and more

Teacher training law: A bill that prohibits “identity politics” from being included in teacher-preparation programs at colleges and universities was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Specifically, the bill says training programs cannot “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum or instruction that teaches identity politics.” DeSantis said, “The Legislature on this looked at it and said, ‘We don’t want these teacher-preparation programs to become captive to some political agenda.’ ” On X, he posted that the law will protect “Floridians from the Agenda of the Global Elites.” One critic of the bill, the Southern Poverty Law Center, called the bill an “effort to silence educational programs that teach empathy and respect for all.” Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Spectrum News 13.

Around the state: Hillsborough school officials are struggling to find ways to improve low-performing schools, a Miami-Dade college continues to use payroll deduction to withhold union dues for employees despite a state law forbidding it, one of the six candidates for the Duval school superintendent’s job withdraws, Sarasota school board members are being asked to approve a resolution rejecting recent federal Title IX changes that extend discrimination protection for gender identity, 10-15 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested Thursday on the University of North Florida campus, and the former Democratic party chair of Palm Beach County is now running for a school board seat. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Construction has begun on a new STEM building at McArthur High School in Hollywood. The building will include 19 classrooms and is part of a $17 million renovation at the school. WSVN.

Hillsborough: The district has the most students of any Florida county enrolled in schools that received D or F grades from the state in 2023, according to an analysis of state records. Most of those 18,000 students live in low-income homes, are more likely to be taught by an inexperienced substitute, and more likely to see acts of violence, according to the data. Unsurprisingly, they are far behind on their reading and have some of the lowest test scores in the state. What will it take for that to change? “That’s the million-dollar question,” said Superintendent Van Ayres. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: Mindy Koch, who resigned Wednesday as chair of the county’s Democratic Party, filed paperwork Thursday to run for the District 5 seat on the school board. It’s currently held by Frank Barbieri, who said two years ago he would not be running for a fifth term. Other declared candidates are Gloria Branch, Mike Letsky, Suzanne Page and Charman Postel. The qualifying deadline for the Aug. 20 election is June 14. Sun-Sentinel. A former behavior health professional at Carver Middle School in Delray Beach arrested last year and accused of grand theft and fraud has agreed to enter a diversion program to avoid criminal charges. Clayton Jones, 43, will repay the school district $10,000 for the extra money he received between 2019 and 2023 after falsifying documents showing he had a doctorate from Florida Atlantic University. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: One of the six candidates for the school superintendent’s position has withdrawn, and the remaining five have submitted answers to questions from the school board. Luis Solano, a deputy superintendent in Detroit, removed his name from consideration. Remaining candidates are Christopher BernierAdam Taylor, Daniel Smith, Joe Phillips and Cheryl Proctor. Finalists will be chosen May 7, with interviews May 13 and 14 and the board expected to choose a superintendent at its May 23 meeting. WJXT.

Lee: A 13-year-old teacher at Varsity Lakes Middle School in Lehigh Acres has been arrested and accused of hitting a 71-year-old teacher in the head and knocking her to the ground during a fire drill. The teacher was hospitalized. The student said he hit the teacher because several classmates offered him money to do so. He’s been charged with battery and could also be expelled under the student code of conduct. WINK.

Pasco: School officials said they intend to keep about a third of the kindergarten aides and student discipline assistants they hired with federal relief funds during the pandemic, even though that funding is ending. “We knew we were not going to be able to sustain all those positions with the end” of the federal funds, said assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley. “We’re trying to salvage what we are able to, in terms of those school supports.” Funding will be allocated for about 90 of the 250 kindergarten aides and 73 of 210 discipline assistants, he said. Tampa Bay Times.

Collier: A JROTC teacher at Palmetto Ridge High School has been fired by the school district after an investigation concluded he made inappropriate remarks to female students this school year that made them feel “uncomfortable.” Rey Guzman is also being investigated by the sheriff’s office. WBBH.

Sarasota: School board member Bridget Ziegler is proposing a resolution for Tuesday’s board meeting that would reject recent federal Title IX changes extending discrimination protection for gender identity. “The US DOE’s recent changes to Title IX would have a devastating impact on our students, families, staff, and overall school community – particularly, women & girls,” Ziegler wrote recently on Facebook. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: President Joe Biden defended the rights of pro-Palestinian protesters to demonstrate on college campuses on Thursday, but said the protests must remain peaceful. “There’s the right to protest but no right to cause chaos,” he said. At least 2,000 protesters have been arrested on U.S. campuses since the backlash against Israel’s war on Gaza began. Politico. NPR. Ten to 15 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested Thursday on the University of North Florida campus. WTLV. A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought against Florida A&M University by former athletic director Kortne Gosha. Gosha had claimed FAMU retaliated against him and forced him to resign after he reported misconduct at the school. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Undergraduate and graduate programs in financial technology are being added this fall at the University of North Florida. Florida Times-Union. A 19-year-old University of Tampa student told police she gave birth to a baby girl in a dorm room last Saturday, and the infant died soon after. The girl then placed the body in a garbage bin outside the dorm. Tampa Bay Times.

Union dues withholding: A state law approved in 2023 banned dues from being withheld from paychecks for members of public education unions, but that’s not happening at Miami-Dade College. Its employees still have dues withheld, said college President Madeline Pumariega. “The law does not supersede an existing contract with the union, and deducting dues is written into the contract,” she said. “As contracts expire, that stipulation will no longer be in the contracts.” That contract expires this year. WLRN.

Around the nation: A Manchester, Conn., middle school decided in December to ban students from having cell phones in classes. There were objections, but the change has already generated profound and unexpected results, said Illing Middle School assistant principal Raymond Dolphin, who compared the ban to cutting consumption of sugary foods. “In a matter of months, you start feeling better,” he said. Washington Post.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis made national headlines with his plan to fill empty classrooms with military veterans. As of late March, the Orange County School District had added three through the program. Why? Because they’ve seen how lousy this state treats educators. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. It’s encouraging that Broward school officials have decided to fast-track the installation of metal detectors on campuses. Having a school safety plan in place before you need one is the best way to circumvent disaster. Evan Nierman, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff

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