Bill with pronoun and sex discussion restrictions advances, property value limits and more

Parents’ rights bill expansion: A bid to expand the Parental Rights in Education law was approved Monday by the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee. S.B. 1320 would prohibit the use of pronouns for students that don’t match their sex at birth, even if their parents approve, and extend a ban of classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity from K-3 to preK-8. “Parents have the right and God-given responsibility to guide their children’s upbringing,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville. “We need to let kids be kids, and our laws need to set appropriate boundaries that respect the rights and responsibility of parents.” Critics of the bill include state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, who said, “We are getting to the point where … we’re becoming like the Salem witches here. … And I really worry that we’re going down a very bad trajectory with this bill.” Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Florida Politics. WCTV.

Also in the Legislature: A bill that would ask voters to lower the annual increases of assessed property values was approved Monday by the House Ways and Means Committee. If approved by the Legislature, the constitutional amendment would lower the amount a home’s assessed value could increase annually from 3 percent to 2 percent. It would appear on the 2024 ballot. Legislative revenue estimates project the change would cut $53 million from county school budgets statewide. Miami Herald. The bill limiting school board members to eight years in office will be considered today by a Senate committee. H.B. 477 was approved by the full House Friday. WCJB.

Around the state: New College of Florida’s provost has resigned after a dispute with two new trustees over how to respond to a death threat, Polk school officials plan to boost spending for special education by $3.1 million, Escambia school board members may vote today on a proposal to make the superintendent’s position an elected one, and Charlotte County schools announce incentives to help recruit and retain teachers. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Jason Meyers, a former English teacher at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday after being convicted in January of sexual activity with a minor by a person in custodial authority in 2015. Meyers was convicted on the testimony of the then-17-year-old victim and others. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. WPLG.

Broward: County residents are being asked by the school district to help in the search for the next superintendent. A six-question survey is on the district website through April 6 asking residents what characteristics and experiences they believe are important in a new superintendent, and to identify the issues and challenges the district faces. WSVN.

Polk: District officials said they plan to boost funding for special education by $3.1 million after more than a decade of complaints that students weren’t getting the legally required services they need. The money would be used to hire 20 new ESE positions and five new behavior/mental health positions. Among the proposed hirings are six speech therapists who could start this school year if the school board approves the proposal at its March 28 meeting. “I feel that the system needed to shift from being compliance-driven to being compassion-driven with a focus on students getting services they need,” said Superintendent Frederick Heid. “The department was also understaffed and is one of the reasons we have a new school allocation model that will allow us to address school level staffing needs in subsequent years.” Lakeland Now.

Marion: A 2nd-grade teacher at Wyomina Park Elementary School has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing a minor and encouraging the girl’s mother to participate in that abuse, according to Ocala police. Eddie Scott, 31, is charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor, soliciting child pornography, soliciting travel to meet a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. School officials said Scott, who began work last August, was fired. WKMG. WOFL. WESH. WCJB. WGFL.

Escambia: School board members are expected to vote today on a resolution calling for the superintendent’s job to be an elected one. County residents voted in 2018 to make the job an appointed one, and Tim Smith was named to the job in 2020. If the resolution is approved, it goes to county commissioners to decide whether to place it on the ballot. Pensacola News Journal.

Charlotte: District officials have announced strategies to recruit and retain teachers. Among the incentives: starting teacher pay of $52,060 and average teacher pay of $60,548, higher pay for substitute teachers, and a different insurance plan to encourage more participation. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida’s provost has resigned after a dispute with two new trustees over how to respond to a death threat. Suzanne Sherman had raised concerns with trustees Christopher Rufo and Eddie Speir about safety at two town meetings after the threat had been sent a day earlier. Sherman and Rufo argued, and the meetings went ahead. Before the first one Jan. 25, Rufo said, “We’re going to be reconsidering leadership here because what I saw demonstrated here was cowardice, not leadership.” Brad Thiessen, an administrator who was briefly interim president until Richard Corcoran was hired, will be the interim provost. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Politics. University of South Florida’s student government has approved a resolution urging school officials to deny state requests about their gender-affirming care unless the state explains how it plans to use the information. “The USF Student Government pledges to stand in solidarity with our transgender peers and to take a stand against all forms of discrimination, harassment, and violence,” the resolution states. Tampa Bay Times.

Education podcasts: New Hampshire education choice pioneer Kate Baker Demers talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the history of her state’s choice programs, the keys to successful education choice advocacy, how education savings accounts can help traditional schools, and more. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: States will be openly competing for young families in the years ahead. Which states are likely to prosper in this competition? Opinion polls reveal a wide gulf between what parents want (K-12 options and flexibility) and what the median state delivers (ZIP code assignment). States willing to give families control over the K-12 education of their children will hold an advantage. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. A higher ed system that clamps earmuffs on its students, gags scholars and kicks professors to the curb based on a shadow accusation still has an awful lot to learn. Sun-Sentinel. American history is full of many heroes, whose accomplishments we will have no problem telling you about in the state of Florida. They fought for justice, which was brave of them, if a little redundant, because there was no specific injustice to fight against. Alexandra Petri, Washington Post. The Pinellas County School District may have once again shot itself in the foot by banning the showing of a film depicting Ruby Bridges’ story at an elementary school. Reports indicate that, once again, a single parent provoked the district’s action toward censorship, and the district failed to follow the process when petitioned. Goliath J. Davis III, Weekly Challenger. Judging by the higher education bill being show-ponied around the Legislature, thinking is the last thing Republicans want. They’d prefer students to be inculcated with cheap cheerleading America First nationalism. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix. Let students read, explore ideas and form opinions. Let Florida be the state where true intelligence is formed. There is nothing to fear. Liberal schools, teachers and professors still produce a lot of conservatives ― at least in Florida. Barbara L. Martin, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff