On June 20th during the LCS Agenda Review Meeting, the Board received a presentation by Government Consultant Jessica Janasiewicz related to the major changes that occurred during the 2023 legislative session.
Janasiewicz explained that House Bill 1 expanded the voucher system to all children in Florida, and included another program for homeschooled students, maxed out at 20,000 students. Additionally, this bill has a savings account to make sure that school districts would not be negatively impacted by more students transferring than anticipated.
Senate Bill 240 incentivizes career and technical programs. There is a $100 million grant associated with this bill that districts can apply for to either start or expand programs. Another major part of the bill is allowing tech centers to give Associate Degrees, which has been a long-term goal for public schools.
House Bill 1069 prohibits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation from Pre-K/Grade-8. This bill will also enforce a new rule that all reading material in elementary classrooms must be listed online for parental viewing. This bill will also ensure that school boards cannot make a policy that forces an employee to use a student/coworker preferred pronoun unless the pronoun was assigned at birth. Furthermore, this bill prohibits an employee or contractor from asking a K-12 student their personal preferred pronouns.
House Bill 7039 covers a literacy instruction guide and a new term called “dyscalculia”. Janasiewicz explained that the term corelates with dyslexia, except it’s for students who have the same provisions in math. This bill will prevent schools from relying primarily on the Three-Cuing Method, as lessons must now be based in phonics and phonemic awareness. She noted that the Department of Education does not yet have an official curriculum for the Three-Cuing Method.
House Bill 379 requires schools to have an internet safety policy for student online protection. This includes limiting students’ access to age-appropriate subject matter, and giving the students a class on the effects of social media.
During the end of the meeting the Board discussed what they might ask the legislature for in the 2024 session. Superintendent Rocky Hanna noted it would be a good idea to look around at other districts to see what they ask for. Chairwoman Alva Smith added that, “If we want something from the legislature, we need to work together with them. Not in opposition. Statements were made within the last 24-hours that have again put us on the radar.” She continued, “It’s time for us to work together with our legislature and with our DOE commissioner if we want certain things to go through.”
Lastly, Board Member Rosanne Wood had a different approach, stating, “To make a little bit of a different point is that, I don’t think we should feel like we have a gag order. We’re elected officers, and we were elected to represent the constituents’ beliefs.”