New laws make teachers anxious about school year
Why it matters: Florida's political "culture wars" are worsening the state's teacher shortage and hurting students, United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats tells Axios.
- The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, counts about 7,000 current teaching vacancies. That's up from about 6,000 last year.
Yes, but: The state Education Department says that number is 4,776 — down from 5,208 last year.
Catch up fast: Among the new policies that were approved this summer as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis' efforts to rid schools of "wokeness":
- An expanded ban on teaching about gender identity or sexual orientation through eighth grade.
- A ban on allowing faculty and students to use someone's preferred pronouns if they don't correspond to their biological sex assigned at birth.
- New African American history teaching standards that say some slaves developed skills they could use for their personal benefit.
What they're saying: Hernandez-Mats says the first couple weeks of school are typically filled with excitement, but this year feels different.
- "There is enthusiasm but there is apprehension and confusion."
- She says teachers are confused about what they're allowed to teach in the classroom. Some have removed literary or historical posters from their walls and others have blocked access to their bookshelves.
Between the lines: Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar has visited school districts across the state and tells Axios there is a sense of hopelessness among teachers.
- Some have asked, "Are these books allowed? Can I get books that my kids will relate to? Is my teaching permitted? What if a parent complains?" he says.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Public Schools teacher Liz Morales, the sponsor of her school's Gay Straight Alliance, tells Axios she is concerned that some students can't use their preferred pronouns and need parental approval to use their nicknames.
- "I just feel anxious for the kids who feel like they can't be themselves," she says.
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