Aug 16, 2023 - News

School starts Thursday in Miami-Dade

Illustration of a pattern of apples and stacks of textbooks.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Make way for buses — because kids return to Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) Thursday.

Why it matters: It's the third-largest district in the U.S., with around 331,500 students and an $8.25 billion budget.

  • The school year begins as the district scrambles to hire teachers and adjust to controversial state-mandated changes.

The latest: MDCPS hired more than 600 teachers last week but still had 280 vacancies as of Friday, NBC6 reported.

Catch up quick: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several bills in 2022 restricting how race and sexual orientation can be taught in schools and opening up the process of selecting instructional materials to the public. This year, the state:

  • Required that media specialists choose books for classroom libraries.
  • Rejected an AP course on African American studies.
  • Rejected textbooks for mentioning critical race theory.
  • Prohibited school employees from asking students their pronouns.
  • Allowed material from right-wing media company PragerU to be used in classes.
  • Approved social studies curriculum standards stating that Black Americans benefited from slavery because they were taught useful skills.

Meanwhile: Florida also expanded a voucher program allowing families — even wealthy ones — to take state funds earmarked for their child's education from public schools and redirect them toward tuition at a private school.

  • MDCPS superintendent Jose Dotres said Friday he would step up marketing efforts promoting public schools as the best choice for families, per the Miami Herald.

What they're saying: Karla Hernández-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade union, told Local 10, "All these culture wars are really impacting the morale of our workforce."

Between the lines: Teachers will get 7%–10% raises this year, but Florida still ranks No. 48 in the nation in teacher pay.

  • State legislators kneecapped teachers unions this year by stopping dues from automatically being deducted from their paychecks.

Of note: Schools have also been testing air-conditioning units, doing active shooter drills and bracing for a possible influx of migrant children after 20,000 entered the system last year.

The bottom line: Despite the controversies, Miami-Dade is an A-rated school district.

  • And all students can receive free breakfast and lunch.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Miami.

More Miami stories