State legislative session starts, student protests, superintendent shuffle and more

In the Legislature: The Florida legislative session kicked off Tuesday with a host of issues to watch, from school vouchers to school board races. Fox 13. The Florida Senate Education PreK-12 Committee advanced the “Teachers’ Bill of Rights” legislation that Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed in January. SB 244 would create a new chapter of state law to consolidate and enhance the rules governing how teachers can control their classroom discipline and academic lessons, and ensure their employment status is now affected by their membership in a union. It also aims to establish additional new bonus and certification programs to attract and retain more educators in classrooms. School districts have reported about 5,000 teaching vacancies statewide. “This bill creates a solution for something urgently needed,” said sponsor Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami. Meanwhile, SB 256 targets the role of teachers unions and would increase the required percentage of teacher participation to maintain union certification. Tampa Bay Times. A proposal that would give Gov. Ron DeSantis power to shape the Florida High School Athletic Association Board of Directors and allow schools to offer pre-game prayers over stadium public address systems got backing in the Senate Monday. The Senate Education PreK-12 Committee voted 9-3 along party lines to approve SB 308. The bill would revamp oversight of the FHSAA, including shrinking its board to nine members from 16.

Miami-Dade: After Gov. Ron DeSantis released a target list of school board members, some have opinions on how Miami-Dade School Board member Luisa Santos got on the list. Miami Herald.

Pinellas: After complaints over the removal of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” school district officials said they will give the book another look. District officials plan to ask a committee of media specialists to determine if the novel is appropriate for high schools during a review of all books questioned throughout the school year. Tampa Bay Times.

Hernando: A school board meeting here turned into a battle over “equity.” Suncoast News.

Parental rights law: LBGTQ students say the parental rights law needs clarity. Baynews 9.

Santa Rosa:  A job fair will be held in Santa Rosa County on March 25 to recruit teachers, support staff, bus drivers and a host of other positions. WEAR.

Escambia: The school district here is showing improvement under Superintendent Tim Smith after board members requested his contract be reviewed. WEAR.

Universal school choice: Florida parents weighed in on how a universal school choice plan would impact them. State lawmakers proposed bills to remove income caps from the state’s school voucher programs, which would make every school-aged child in the state eligible for a private school scholarship or to get funding for other education-related expenses. Parents are split on how the plan would benefit — and affect — their children’s education. WFSU. WUSF.

Superintendent shuffle: In the past three years, more than half of the state’s school superintendents have left their posts. Forty of the state’s 67 school superintendents have left in the past three years, according to the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “We have had a rather historical turnover,” said Bill Montford, a former Florida Senator and district superintendent. Yahoo News. ABC Action News.

University and college news: Students at the University of South Florida protested Monday to ensure vulnerable communities are protected in the midst of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push for changes in state colleges. The protesters demanded the university protects students from recent attacks by the governor on diversity, equity and inclusion. Some students filed into the University of South Florida’s board of trustees meeting with signs calling on school officials to fight state proposals targeting diversity programs. WMNF. Tampa Bay Times. The state’s university system is under siege as state lawmakers convene for the 2023 legislative session. Florida Phoenix. The lists of diversity, equity and inclusion programs universities turned over in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ demands had common themes. Tallahassee Democrat. A professor, student and a New College alumnus spoke out about what’s unfolding at New College of Florida. WGCU. Plans for a University of Florida campus in downtown West Palm Beach have been placed on hold after a disagreement between a key developer and officials over the schools naming rights. WLRN. Meanwhile, a potential University of Florida graduate campus in Jacksonville cleared its first hurdle in City Council. The Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: Tuesday marked the first day of the two-month legislative session for 2023. Top legislative leaders cited education choice expansion as a priority during opening speeches to their chambers, and Gov. Ron DeSantis praised education choice and increased parental involvement as key to improving education during his annual State of the State address. Lisa Buie, reimaginED. Our stories are unique, but we have many things in common. We were born to parents who loved us but could not afford what many take for granted — a good education. Jayleesha Cooper and Brandon Villanueva Sanchez, reimaginED. Autonomy might not be the silver bullet for improvement. Malika Anderson, The 74th.

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