Killing DEI target of bill and roundtable, full House vote Thursday on H.B. 1, and more

Bill targets DEI: A bill that would eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at state colleges and universities was approved Monday by the House Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee. It would also limit majors and minors for Florida students, including those in critical race theory, critical race studies, critical ethnic studies, radical feminist theory, radical gender theory, queer theory, critical social justice and intersectionality. Hours before the vote, Gov. Ron DeSantis and top higher education officials held a roundtable discussion in West Palm Beach to tout the House and Senate bills against the “left-wing ideology” of DEI. “These bills effectively eliminate DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and other types of discriminatory programs and activities,” DeSantis said. “But it also prohibits soliciting pledges of DEI or CRT (critical race theory) or any political viewpoint that’s a condition of hiring, promotion or admissions.” News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Associated Press. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. WGFL. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. Orlando Sentinel.

Also in the Legislature: The House bill that would make all K-12 students in the state eligible for state K-12 scholarships has been scheduled to be heard by the full House on Thursday. H.B. 1 would set up education savings accounts of almost $8,000 for students who want them. The money can used for private school tuition, instructional materials and more. S.B. 202, the Senate version of the bill, also will get a hearing Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee. If it’s approved, it will then go before the full Senate. News Service of Florida. A bill creating a public magnet school with “competitive academics” in Alachua County has been introduced by state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville. It would be a grade 6-12 school governed by a board of trustees appointed by the governor, with a goal of opening in the fall of 2024. Mainstreet Daily News.

Around the state: The Flagler school district wants to start the high school day earlier even as a bill to push back start times for high schools is moving through the Legislature, New College of Florida’s dean for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives has been fired by interim president Richard Corcoran, a tentative contract agreement for the school year in progress has been reached in the long-stalled negotiations between the union representing teachers and the school district, and Brevard school board members create a new policy governing comments at public meetings. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Attorneys for a transgender high school volleyball player is asking a district judge to reject the state’s motion to dismiss the case challenging a 2021 state law prohibiting transgender female students from playing on women’s and girls’ sports teams. The suit has been on hold for nearly two years while a court considered whether the St. Johns County School District discriminated against a transgender male high school student who was barred from using the school’s boys bathrooms. That case was decided in favor of the school district, a decision used by the state in arguing for a dismissal in this case. News Service of Florida.

Brevard: Six school district policies were approved or revised by school board members last week. One new policy establishes rules for speaking at board meetings, including 3-minute limits on individual speakers and 30 minutes for all comments unless waived by the board. The other adopts rules to ensure that the district’s unmanned aircraft systems meet state and federal regulations. Updated policies included those on public complaints, charter schools, controlled enrollment, and preference for veterans in employment. Florida Today.

Seminole: A tentative contract agreement for the school year in progress has been reached in the long-stalled negotiations between the union representing teachers and the school district. Teachers who were judged to be “highly effective” in their evaluations will receive raises of $2,441.47, while those rated “effective” or are on the grandfathered pay scale will get $1,997.57. Starting teachers will be paid $48,500, a boost of $1,000. Union members and the school board still have to approve the agreement. Orlando Sentinel.

Santa Rosa: Two parents are suing the school board and sheriff’s office after their 8-year-old special needs son was handcuffed and Baker Acted after an incident at the High Road School in 2021. The lawsuit filed by Collin and Melanie Figueroa alleges that their son’s 4th and 14th amendment rights were violated. The suit also names the company that owns the school, and the officer who handcuffed the boy. WEAR.

Bay: School officials will open a satellite campus at Surfside Middle School in Panama City Beach to cut down on the travel for special education students who attend the Margaret K. Lewis School in Panama City. The new office will eliminate hour of travel time for about 30 students. School board chair Steve Moss said the move also makes sense because Margaret K. Lewis is close to capacity. WMBB.

Flagler: Even as a bill to push back start times for high schools is moving through the Legislature, the Flagler school district wants to start the high school day earlier. This year, high schools start at 8:10, while middle schools open at 7:30 and elementary schools at 9:10. A majority of school board members favor moving up the high school start time to begin before the middle school. If the legislative bill is approved and signed into law, middle schools could not start before 8 a.m. and high schools before 8:30 a.m., starting in 2026. Flagler Live. A district book review committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend keeping Amy Reed’s The Nowhere Girls, a book deconstructing high school rape culture, in high school libraries. Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt will make the final decision. Mittelstadt also decided to keep Patricia McCormick’s Sold on library shelves at high and middle schools. It tells the story of a 13-year-old Nepalese girl who is trafficked by her stepfather into servitude in a house of prostitution in India. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida’s dean for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives has been fired by interim president Richard Corcoran. Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez was fired March 3 despite a recommendation from another college administrator that she be named associate dean of housing and residential life. The other three members of the DEI team were reassigned. Rosario-Hernanez contends she was fired because she identifies as trans fluid. “I believe that’s the reason I got fired was because of my gender identity,” Rosario-Hernandez said. “The only difference between me and my colleagues was my gender identity.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Several major New College donors are canceling $29 million in planned donations because of the state’s decision to transform the school, said a former member of the school’s board of trustees. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The lawsuit targeting Stetson University over the 2017 death of a football player on the practice field is headed to the state Supreme Court. News Service of Florida.

Audit on charters: A Florida Auditor General audit concludes there are still several problems with a lack of oversight at some charter schools and continued business dealings that could be seen as conflicts of interest. One charter school “had been incorporated as a nonprofit organization by an agent of the for-profit MO it had contracted with to operate the school,” the audit disclosed, which is a violation of federal law stating that grants can only be awarded to nonprofit organizations. Two other charters didn’t disclose their management organizations, 12 others had used for-profit management organizations or companies related to them, in leasing their premises, and another 10 had “material related-party transactions between the schools and the for-profit MOs were disclosed in the schools’ financial statements.” The audit encouraged greater oversight. The Center Square.

Around the nation: A bill that would that prohibit transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity is moving forward in the U.S. House. H.R. 734 was introduced by Rep. Greg Steube, a Republican who represents Sarasota and Charlotte counties and parts of Lee County. Politico. Charter school advocates are criticizing the Biden administration for proposing no increase in funding for federal grants, but are praising the Education Department for its plan to allow “greater flexibility” on how the grants are spent. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Ed Reform 1.0 is mostly dead, but it lives on as a learning experience. Reformers have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and focus more on emancipation than management. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Florida has an opportunity to reclaim its mantle as the leading state for education freedom and choice. With just a few small but important tweaks, the Sunshine State could adopt a policy on universal education choice that will be a shining example for other states to follow. Jason Bedrick, The Daily Signal.

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BY NextSteps staff