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21st June 2022
Districts struggling to implement parental rights law without state guidance
School districts across Florida are working to implement the new state law that bans classroom instruction on sexual identity and gender orientation in grades K-3, but many are struggling amid "a lack of clarity." The Florida Department of Education has a year to create standards. The Department has scheduled a workshop for later this month to develop a rule for how the special magistrate process will work, but for now school districts are mostly on their own in trying to implement the new law. Former North Florida Senator Bill Montford, who heads the Florida Association of District Superintendents, says statewide consistency without more robust guidance from the state will be a challenge. “There’s no doubt about it, it's an issue that is this sensitive. We’ve got to jump on this really, really quick and make sure that we implement and follow the intent of the legislation and do it in as timely a manner as we can.” Leon County School District Superintendent Rocky Hanna says the law’s vague language has a lot of teachers worried they could be sued for saying the wrong thing. "They don’t know what can they say, what can’t they say. If I make a child feel bad are they going to sue me? Am I protected if they sue me? I don’t make a lot of money, are they coming after my family? We already have a teacher shortage. We have a teacher shortage crisis. This is only going to exacerbate that situation," Hanna complains.
Republican lawmakers introduce significant school choice bill
Republican lawmakers introduced twin bills in Congress at the end of last week that would establish a federal school choice program by enacting a $10bn tax credit program to fund education scholarships. The Educational Choice for Children Act, introduced by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) in the House of Representatives and by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in the Senate, has several high-profile co-sponsors. The legislation would create a federal tax credit program to incentivize donations to scholarship-granting organizations that would then be used to cover expenses related to public and private K-12 education. The proposed legislation comes amid a wave of public support for school choice programs following extended closures of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous states, including West Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and Missouri, have enacted new school choice programs or expanded existing programs, while Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, and other states have advanced school choice bills through their state legislatures.
Districts brace for heated school board election season
Nine candidates qualified Friday to run for the four of nine seats on the Miami-Dade County School Board ballot this year, including three held by longtime incumbents; Dorothy Bendross-Mindingal, Maria Teresa Rojas, Marta Pérez. The fourth seat is open, due to the longtime chair, Perla Tabares Hantman, announcing earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek reelection. Fourteen candidates are vying for four seats on the Palm Beach County School Board, which sets policies and oversees billions of dollars for the 10th largest school district in the United States. The Alachua County School District has four of its five seats up for grabs, pinning known Democrats against Republicans, despite the seats being nonpartisan. With just two candidates set in each race, the primary election on August 23 will decide the makeup of the new board. Two Marion County School Board incumbents have decided to leave, while a third will be unopposed and automatically get a second term. During a news conference in March, Gov. Ron DeSantis predicted a "huge amount of voter interest" this year and called school board races "some of the most important elections we're able to vote on." 
Voters to decide half-cent sales tax extension for Flagler Schools
Voters will decide whether to extend a half-cent sale surtax for another 10 years on the November 8 ballot, raising $8m per year for technology, safety, buses and other improvements for Flagler Schools. The Flagler County Commission encouraged the school administration to now reach out to the community to make sure voters know the importance of supporting the sales tax extension. In the past 10 years, Flagler Schools has used the sales tax funds to provide laptops and tablets for students, allowing students to be prepared for at-home learning before the pandemic.
Why Juneteenth should be taught in schools
Juneteenth, a holiday long marked within the Black community to commemorate the end of slavery, is also now a federal holiday, recognized as such for the first time on June 20. Although it is observed at a time when most K-12 schools are out on summer break, there is a value in teaching about the holiday and its legacy year-round, says Sonya Douglass, a professor of education leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. "I think it’s important to underscore that we are in a pivotal moment in U.S. education and history. While we are witnessing a lot of conflict, I do think it’s the beginning of a new wave in education that is going to be more conscious and inclusive, and that will better prepare young people to be productive and contributing members of a functioning democracy," she suggests.
Cardona champions COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for youngest children
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has championed the eligibility for children ages 5 and younger for the COVID-19 vaccine. “This is a historic milestone in our nation’s recovery from the pandemic, and it will provide so many parents and families who have been waiting for this moment with more peace of mind about keeping their children safe and healthy. The Biden-Harris administration will take a whole-of-government approach to ensuring that every parent and caregiver who wants to secure a vaccine for their child is able to do so through pediatricians, primary care doctors, and other trusted healthcare providers, including community health centers and pharmacies. These vaccines are safe and will help save lives.”
Education Department urged to publish Title IX updates
Hundreds of education and civil rights groups are calling on the U.S. Department of Education to release its Title IX regulatory proposal by June 23, the 50th anniversary of the law. The 200-plus organizations, led by the National Women’s Law Center, say it's particularly important at present that the department clarify safeguards for LGBTQ students. The organizations in a letter to the Education Department on Wednesday drew attention to the fact that the agency has delayed issuing the rule, having initially targeted an April 2022 release date.
Curb teacher role in Florida effort to ban books, editorial argues
The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board argues that already over-burdened teachers in Florida should not be tasked with being "book censors." On May 26, the Board notes, the Palm Beach County School District asked its teachers to check their libraries and media centers for any books and materials that might run afoul of Florida's new parental rights laws. "It's unfortunate that the administration has turned its teachers into the first responders of banned books. They already have enough on their plates," the Board laments. For his part, Superintendent Michael Burke, asserts: "It's my responsibility to comply with the law, and I'm trying to do it in the least disruptive manner."

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