School employee unions struggle to meet tougher state rules to survive

The big story: Public sector workers throughout Florida, including teachers and non-instructional school employees, voiced loud opposition in 2023 as state lawmakers pushed through legislation making it harder for them to retain their union representation.

They warned that the measure, which required 60% of all eligible employees to join while also barring employers from using paycheck deductions to collect union dues, could kill off the collective bargaining associations. They worried that they could lose all sorts of job protections in the aftermath, including the contracts they negotiated.

Less than a year after the law took effect, the concerns have begun coming to pass.

In Pinellas County, for instance, the group representing teachers was unable to reach the 60% mark by its early February deadline, and is instead seeking a new election to maintain its status. Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Lee Bryant told the Times he expected his organization to remain in place at least through a state-run election, for which he didn’t know the time frame.

Meanwhile, dozens of other unions already have lost their certification. They include Volusia County blue-collar school workers and state university non-faculty employees. Read more from Orlando Weekly.

K-12 topics

Vouchers: About 80% of Palm Beach County students receiving new private school vouchers were previously attending private schools, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Teacher pay: Leon County teachers and the school district reached a tentative contract agreement that includes $5.12 million for added pay, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

High school sports: Girls’ flag football is gaining popularity in Duval County high schools, Jacksonville Today reports.

Early education: The Brevard County school district is looking to expand its prekindergarten program, Florida Today reports. Officials say better preparing youngsters for school would help with behavior.

Construction projects: The Broward County school district faces another state review over its troubled construction plan supported by a voter-backed bond, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Charter schools: Critics of a House bill that would allow municipalities to lead conversion of district public schools to charter status are warning of potential unintended consequences for neighborhood schools in the legislation, WUSF reports.

Calendars: Parents at a Marion County elementary school received additional information about the possibility of converting the school to a year-round calendar, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. Officials are seeking feedback before making a final decision.

Book bans: On a 3-2 vote, the Hernando County School Board removed “The Kite Runner” and “The Black Friend” from schools, Suncoast News reports. The board did not pull a third book that had been challenged. • Former New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio and Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice will debate about book bans in Florida at the Orlando Public Library, WMFE reports.

From the police blotter ... Three Illinois children were arrested on accusations of sending threats of violence to schools in Marion County, WOFL reports. • A Martin County school maintenance worker was arrested on allegations of possessing child pornography, TC Palm reports. • A Palm Beach County high school student was arrested on accusations of bringing a gun to school, WPTV reports.

From the court docket ... Former Miami-Dade County School Board member Lubby Navarro pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from allegations that she used a school district credit card for about $100,000 in personal purchases, WTVJ reports.

In higher ed

University leadership: The jury is still out a year into Ben Sasse’s tenure as University of Florida president, WUFT reports.

Student housing: Florida Gulf Coast University is offering additional free housing grants to needy students, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

College funds: Two Florida universities have endowments of more than $1 billion, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Florida Memorial University received a $1 million donation from JP Morgan Chase to support staff, scholarships and equipment, the Miami Herald reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to Friday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Who’d have ever thought that, when we first heard Madness burst onto the scene in 1979 with the ska remake hit “One Step Beyond,” that the English band would still be topping the charts nearly 45 years later?