We are excited to offer you an opportunity to “double up” on your recruitment incentives. As you may know, we award members $25.00 for each new member who is recruited to join PEN. This is our way of saying thank you. From September 13, 2021 – October 29, 2020, PEN will be doubling up and giving $50.00 for each new member you recruit. We want to share with fellow educators the fact they have a choice for their legal, liability and employment rights coverage for a lot less than other organizations. Should you need flyers please contact: email@example.com and we can get you the materials you might need. Just a quick note, please make sure that when the new members complete the application whether online or a paper version, they put your name down under ‘referred by’. This will make sure you get the credit. We will be sending out the payments around November 15, 2021 just in time for the holiday season. We appreciate you as a member and encourage you to share with fellow educators how The Professional Educators of Florida can benefit them. Thank you for all you do as an educator, and we look forward to welcoming many new members. *This offer is not valid for new student memberships.
For many teachers this was a very frustrating year. I found myself working to create activities that my students (especially my seniors) could participate in just to help them feel as though their year was special in a positive way.
I looked deeply into her eyes, I saw the tears welling up in them. She was hurt again and I had been the person who had delivered that pain. This was much bigger than just another cancelled date.
I have let her down so many times this year. I wanted to tell her, once again, that I was sorry; that this was the last time, that I wouldn’t do it anymore, but I have said that so many times and I recognized that the belief that I once saw in those trusting eyes was gone.
Only the hurt and sadness remained.
I thought to myself, what kind of person am I? How can I keep doing this?
Then I heard that old familiar voice in my head saying “it’s not your fault”, “you are just as much a victim here as she is” but the truth is that I am not sure that I believe it anymore either.
I have used all the clichés: “life is not fair”, “it will be better soon”, “when life gives you lemons” but my false bravado is just that and I don’t want her to know that I am hurting as much as she is.
She used to look up to me for strength and knowledge; nothing made me happier than to see her eyes light up when she saw me. Now instead of looking to me she looks through me. I’m sensing depression and desperation where I used to see joy.
God help me! I want to do right by her but this is bigger than I am.
Like her, I suffer the anguish, the fear of not knowing and the exhaustion of fighting to do the right thing when there is so much disagreement as to what the right thing is.
You see, she is the Senior Class of 2021 and I am a teacher that cares.
By Steve Gordon
There may be a lot of uncertainty about the coming school year, but one thing you can count on is that PEN of Florida is here for you, regardless of the circumstance. Rest assured that you will be protected and your rights will be supported going into this school year. The following are answers to frequently asked questions and guidance for teachers in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
If there is ever a time that a teacher needs legal support, this is it. Educators cannot afford to leave anything up to chance, especially in times like these. The school year has not even started and PEN of Florida’s legal team has already been handling members’ cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please note that this publication is aimed at informing educators and does not necessarily reflect the views of PEN of Florida or its staff members.
Frequently Asked Questions: Legal Rights
If I get COVID while at school will I be forced to use my sick days?
It’s possible you might have to use your sick days if you’re out because you have COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FRCRA) gives employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined pursuant to federal, state, or local government ordinance or advice of a healthcare provider, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. The 80 hours provided by federal law is in addition to your accumulated leave with the district and must be exhausted before turning to your accrued leave. Therefore, while your district can require you to use any accrued leave while you’re out, they cannot do so until you have exhausted this federal benefit. At that point, district sick leave policy will control when and how your days will be used.
If I get COVID while working at the school, will I qualify for FMLA?
Possibly, depending on the severity of the symptoms you have. As always, an employee qualifies for FMLA if they have a serious health condition as defined in the Act. Unless you have complications from having COVID-19 that require continuing medical treatment and/or in-patient care, you will likely not qualify for FMLA.
If I have a pre-existing condition or am otherwise in a “high risk” category. I am not comfortable going back to school. What should I do?
The first step is to contact your healthcare provider and discuss these concerns with them. Your medical provider will determine whether or not your condition requires quarantine, or if it’s safe for you to return to the workplace. With a written recommendation from your healthcare provider, you may qualify for paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The quarantine recommendation will get you up to 80 hours of paid sick leave.
Once you have used your eligible hours, the new law does not provide protection. It is possible you might qualify for leave under the traditional Family and Medical Leave Act or for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are in this situation, please call the PEN of Florida Legal Services department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-311-7770 for more guidance.
If I’m pregnant, do I have any additional rights that would allow me to stay home?
At this point there are no recommendations regarding increased protections for pregnant women beyond saying “prevention should be emphasized.” Further, current law does not provide any additional protections for pregnant women beyond what is available to all workers. If you believe you are at greater risk or have a complication that puts you at greater risk, you should contact your doctor to discuss your concerns and the potential for a doctor-recommended quarantine.
Can I force the students in my classroom to wear a face mask?
Absent a mandate from federal, state or local government or the school district, an individual district employee is not able to unilaterally require masks be worn in his/her classroom. If the district requires masks to be worn and a student is not wearing one, the teacher should follow district guidance/protocol.
Can my school take my temperature and ask medical questions when I report to work?
Yes, schools are allowed to conduct basic screenings of their employees. Pursuant to the EEOC’s guidance, employers may screen their employees regarding COVID-19, so long as employers treat all employees uniformly and protect the confidentiality of the screening results. Questions must be related to COVID-19. Screening can include asking employees if they are experiencing symptoms, taking their temperatures, and even requiring they be tested.
Am I required to tell my school when and where I travel?
Yes, if the district has a policy requiring it. If the CDC or state or local public health officials recommend that people who visit specified locations remain at home for several days until it is clear they do not have COVID-19 symptoms, an employer may ask whether employees are returning from these locations, even if the travel was personal. Such travel inquiries would fall under an employer’s screening of employees generally, as mentioned above.
Can my school force me to stay home without pay if I travel out of my local area?
Traveling during the pandemic increases your likelihood of getting and spreading COVID-19. Therefore, it is reasonable for your school district to be concerned about traveling during the school year. The district has a responsibility to provide a safe learning and working environment and, therefore, could require those who have traveled out of the area, especially to areas that are experiencing increased cases of COVID-19 infections, to self-quarantine when they return home. Depending on district policies and whether or not you have any accrued leave days, it’s possible you may not get paid during this period of self-quarantine.
Is the school required to accommodate me if I live with a high-risk individual?
No, while employers are usually required to accommodate employees on a variety of levels, this does not extend to other individuals the employee knows or lives with. People who live with high-risk individuals should take extra precautions and consider staying at home altogether if they don’t feel the work environment is safe.
Can my school force me to social distance and wear a mask outside of the workplace?
No, your employer cannot force you to social distance, wear a mask, or otherwise control what COVID precautions you do and do not take outside the workplace. However, if you do contract COVID or interact with somebody who is known to have COVID, your school will likely request you stay at home for a certain amount of time and/or take other measures before coming back to work.
Can I take off work to watch my own children if I don’t feel comfortable sending them back to school?
No, assuming your child’s school or daycare is open, you cannot take off work to watch them because you are not comfortable sending them to school/daycare. As schools come out with their back-to-school COVID plans, each parent (including teachers and other school employees with children) will need to assess how they feel about sending their own children back.
If a COVID-19 outbreak forces my school to close, can the district force me to use my sick leave during the closure? Can the district furlough me during the closure?
No, if the school is closed and employees are not able to report, they should not be forced to use sick time. Assuming the employee is “ready and willing to work” but for the closure, we believe the district is required to pay contracted employees per their contract. Non-contracted employees will most likely not be paid during a school closure per federal Department of Labor guidelines.
What is my liability if a student in my classroom gets COVID because the students are either not social distancing, or unable to social distance via the type of lesson or instruction they’re receiving?
Analyzing a teacher’s liability for a COVID spread in their classroom is similar to any other event taking place in the classroom. As the teacher and adult in the room, it is important you are monitoring the students at all times and enforcing school rules and codes of conduct. Teachers will be responsible for enforcing any COVID guidelines schools create for this upcoming school year.
That being said, kids will be kids and unexpected events will occur in the classroom that we are unable to stop. While we cannot reduce a teacher’s liability to zero, actively monitoring the students and enforcing the rules given to you by the school are good ways to keep your liability to a minimum.
If I contract COVID at school and miss time from work, will I qualify for workers’ compensation?
Most likely, no.
Generally, a regular disease that the general public is exposed to is not covered under the occupational disease category. So while occupational diseases are typically covered by workers’ compensation, diseases such as influenza, common colds, and MRSA are not covered. This holds true even if the worker is a healthcare worker. These diseases can be contracted in infinite places, not necessarily at the worker’s place of employment. Workers’ compensation cases involving COVID-19 will likely only be compensable if the worker is in the healthcare field and has been specifically exposed to the virus.
What happens to the duty-free lunch if districts require teachers to watch students in their classrooms during the lunch period to implement a COVID-19 safety protocol?
At this time Florida statutory mandates have not been modified due to the implementation of safety protocols. A district cannot refuse to follow Florida Law to impose additional duties that conflict with Florida Law.
If I’m out for COVID-related reasons how will that impact my retirement?
These absences are covered under the FRCRA provisions. Asence should have no greater effect than an individual utilizing FLMA. In both cases, there should be no recrimination against the individual’s employment or retirement.
For more information, the Florida Department of Education released an overview of the state’s reopening plan that you can read here: http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/19861/urlt/FLDOEReopeningCARESAct.pdf. We wish all Florida educators a safe and successful coming school year.
Uncharted Instruction: Florida Educators Adapting to COVID-19 and Looking Ahead to the 2020-2021 School Year
The Professional Educators Network of Florida released a survey to educators to learn more about their perspectives about distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main purpose of the survey was to learn more about how distance learning affected teachers, to give them a platform to tell about what worked, what didn’t, and what they felt that they could do better. Hundreds of educators across the state responded, most being classroom teachers with ten or more years of experience. The results were both informative and constructive, and their perspectives have potential to guide the future of Florida Education. However, there was not a general consensus about how educators feel about returning to schools in the fall–and what form that return should take. The opinion to return or not, whether virtual or in-person, seemed depending on an educator’s age, quality of health, and other personal responsibilities he or she may have. Therefore, the responses were varied and at times, seemingly contradictory. The survey questions ranged from educators’ opinions of how successful online learning was overall, barriers to success for students and teachers, student engagement and inclusion, as well as safety and health concerns. While the majority of the respondents had a favorable view of the transition to online learning overall, they were concerned about how to help the “invisible students”, the ones that lack reliable internet access, the ESE or ELL students, or the ones that do not have parents available to support their learning. Additionally, one of the major concerns across the board is how to ensure that schools will be safe enough to return to: many of the respondents did not see how students could effectively social distance or how smaller class sizes could consistently occur. There were many suggestions on how to improve the situation for future school closures, many of which were practical and creative. See the details of the results at the link below.
Professional Educators Network of Florida Educators Survey: COVID-19 and Distance Learning Survey
Educators responded from all over the state of Florida, and this survey included PEN Members as well as non-members.
Nearly 83% of the respondents are classroom teachers.
Most respondents are veteran teachers, with nearly 55% having taught for more than 10 years.
Over 85% of the respondents rated the transition to online learning, 1 being very poor to 5 being excellent, as a 3 or above. About 14% rated the overall experience a 2 or below.
The educators that found this format to work described helpful factors such as the use of Google, flexibility with assignments, and strong existing relationships with students.
Educators cited many challenges to transitioning to online learning, but the most prevalent challenges were students having internet access and converting lessons to an online format.
Additionally, over 13% cited the largest challenge to online learning as personal responsibilities of caretaking for others in their household.
Many commented that the lack of parental involvement, the disappearance of the “invisible” students (ESE, ELL, those living in poverty), and the speed/lack of training was especially challenging. Many teachers that taught younger grades–kindergarten and first grade in particular–had a very hard time making the online format work well.
The majority of the respondents rated student engagement with online learning to be a 3 (43.1%) or 4 (25.5%) out of five.
The survey’s free responses revealed that a major reason that students were not engaged was lack of internet access along with low motivation. Having parental support was cited as a crucial component to student engagement. Several teachers addressed the engagement and parental involvement issue by offering online meetings in the evening so working parents were more likely to be present. Some suggested that sending home more manipulatives for the younger students may be helpful for better engagement.
The situation for ESE and ELL students was more dire in the perspective of the respondents. Overwhelmingly, the educators cited that these groups of students did not fare nearly as well with an online format. The needs of these students did not get met in their opinion.
However, educators rated their students’ overall readiness for the next grade level to be slightly lower, with 32.3% rating it as a 3 and 23.5% as a 2.
Respondents elaborated on their perspectives with suggestions to improve student readiness for the next grade level. Ideas ranged from using more face-to-face time for students to practice effective online learning, the availability of more targeted support to struggling students, and for classes to be available during the summer. One of the most frequently mentioned improvements to help students to be more prepared was to give teachers more training and support for online learning.
There were many student needs that educators are concerned about. The needs that topped the list were food insecurity, access to mental health counseling, child care, and parental access to employment services.
Educators were varied with their caretaking responsibilities during the pandemic, with a little over 40% having no one besides themselves to care for, and 31% having children under 18 to care for.
Respondents a variety of suggestions to help relieve the level of burden when it comes to having a simultaneous role of both educator and caretaker:
- A way to offer child care for teachers was one of the top suggestions educators had.
- Allowing teachers to enter the physical building to have a space to work without interruption.
- Schools systems to put into place flexible timelines, realistic expectations, and clear schedules in order to safeguard the teachers and students.
Most of the educators that responded rated their level of concern for their safety/health as a 3 or above when it came to returning to school in the fall.
Among the concerns that educators specifically pointed out, several emerged as the top worries:
- Inability to truly social distance, even with smaller class sizes.
- Younger students may not be able to properly socially distance and keep themselves germ-free.
- Parents sending sick children to school.
- Many of the respondents felt more apprehension because they fell into a high-risk group because of either age or health conditions that may make contracting COVID-19 more dangerous.
Educator pay/staff cuts were also a huge concern as a potential result of the COVID-19 crisis.
While there has been no official word from legislators or the Department of Education regarding pay cuts or mass staff reductions, educators are still worried about the future given the economic climate COVID-19 has created. Most have cited concerns about the pay raises lasting or whether certain positions will be eliminated because there are no children in the building (coaches, gym teachers, etc). Additionally, respondents commented that to either cut pay or give teachers more responsibility would cause teachers to leave the profession.
At the Professional Educators Network of Florida, we are here for you. Below are useful links to inform and equip you with the necessary resources to make this unprecedented time as successful as possible.
If you have specific employment-related questions or concerns related to the COVID-19 Crisis, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via our dedicated email: email@example.com.
For up-to-date news and quality content on all things education, be sure to like the Professional Educators Network of Florida on Facebook. We are continuously posting COVID-19 and Florida Education News to keep you as informed as possible.
As always, we are grateful for your trust and support as a PEN of Florida member. Stay safe and healthy!
Florida Department of Education Communication
Canva – now offering its services free of charge to assist teachers in their online learning transition. Through Canva, educators can Create presentations, infographics, websites, reports, worksheets, posters, flyers, and signage.
By: Amanda Davis, M. E.D.
For the first time, the NEA clearly made their stance known on the abortion issue this past week. At this year’s NEA Annual Meeting, New Business Item 56 reads: The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade. This is despite the fact that for decades the NEA has taken a much more general tone in its official positions on abortion and women’s health. This is also despite the fact that their own members expressed concern about what such a distinct viewpoint on a divisive issue would mean to those that don’t agree, with one delegate even suggesting that the union should focus more on educational concerns.
It’s time that all teachers ask the question whether the union truly represents them.
This development exemplifies how problematic the union’s progressive agenda can be. While using teachers’ hard-earned dues money, they support political issues that have nothing to do with the classroom or teaching profession. Regardless of one’s position on the abortion issue, climate change, or LGBTQ rights—why spend money and resources supporting or opposing this? Rather than working to unite educators, the union continues to divide in a manner counterproductive to the mission of education.
Everyone knows that education and politics are intertwined, but the diverse views of educators make it difficult to paint them all with the same political or social brush. Teachers are a politically diverse and socially nuanced bunch. Teachers, like most human beings, have views that can be ambiguous, even conflicting. It’s entirely possible for a teacher to be a registered Democrat yet be undecided on how she feels about Obamacare. There are many people that have voted strictly Republican yet happily listen to NPR and even support tighter gun restrictions. Regardless of whether a teacher’s views lean left or right, most of them did not choose education as a career because they wish to enter politics. At the end of the day, teachers just want to do what they came to the schools to do: to teach.
How varied are teachers in their political views? It turns out, very much so, with the largest percentage unsurprisingly falling somewhere in the middle of conservative and liberal. A recent Gallup poll detailed that 43% of teachers described their political views as moderate, 23% as conservative, and 4% as very conservative—a combined total of 70% of the polled teachers. But to look at the teacher’s unions, one would never know that. Teachers’ unions are decidedly liberal to very liberal, which only made up a total of only 30% of teachers’ reported political views on this same poll. In 2016, a whopping 96% of the NEA’s total donations went to Democratic candidates. This is fantastic if one agrees with those candidates. The problem is, not all teachers do.
Teachers need to know that their priorities and values are significant; they need to be secure in that they are contributing to an organization that won’t steamroll them with a predetermined set of political and social priorities. It’s unlikely that the union can even begin to guarantee such a thing to all teachers given their established political and social leanings.
Money spent in teachers’ unions do not all go directly to teachers. For example, according to The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), the NEA spent a combined total of over 36% in 2015 for political lobbying and activities, along with contributions to political and social causes. Sure, the union may argue that their activities are devoted to promoting the teaching profession—but when one literally counts the dollars that go towards direct services for teachers—the percentage is actually much lower than one would assume. There is so much money and power exchanged at the political level that it is simply common knowledge that the NEA is among the most powerful lobbying forces in Washington.
The bottom line is this: if a teacher looks at what the union supports and she likes what she sees, then good. That teacher is giving hard-earned money to an organization with both eyes open. However, if a teacher wants to do the work she loves and have the workplace protection she needs, without supporting wide-ranging social agendas and political causes, that teacher deserves to know what other options are available.
The Professional Educators Network of Florida (PEN of Florida) is the choice that many teachers across Florida make for this very reason. PEN of Florida does not engage in aggressive political partisanship. PEN is not engaged in divisive social agendas unrelated to education. PEN does not endorse political candidates, nor does PEN use member’s dues for political contributions. Members have comprehensive liability protection and workplace rights protection at an affordable cost: the average savings is a third of what one pays to be a member of the union. PEN of Florida keeps all membership dues in the State of Florida to go directly to services for teachers and to benefit Florida education. To join PEN or for more information, go to www.penfl.org or call 800-311-7770.
HB 1277 – Student Discipline – 2019
General Bill by Antone
Student Discipline: Revises duties of district school boards relating to student discipline & school safety & qualifications of school resource officer & school safety officer; requires district school board to adopt policy on referrals to criminal justice system or juvenile justice system, rather than policy of zero tolerance for crime & victimization. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
SB 1644 – Instructional Personnel and Educational Support Employee Salaries – 2019
General Bill by Powell
Instructional Personnel and Educational Support Employee Salaries; Creating the “Florida Instructional Personnel Fair Pay Act” and “Florida Educational Support Employees Fair Pay Act”; requiring the Legislature to fund the Florida Education Finance Program at a level that ensures that instructional personnel and educational support employees earn a living wage; providing for specified percentage increases to the base salaries of instructional personnel and educational support employees for certain years, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
SB 1684 – Educator Certification Requirements – 2019
General Bill by Broxson
Educator Certification Requirements; Revising the period of validity of a temporary certificate; revising the length of time within which educators who are issued a temporary certificate must complete certain requirements, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
HB 7061 – Teacher Preparation – 2019
Teacher Preparation: Revises provisions relating to teacher preparation programs, educator preparation institutes, DOE duties relating to teacher recruitment & retention, supports for first-time teachers, & educator certification requirements relating to mastery of general knowledge requirements. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Students with Disabilities in Public Schools
Students with Disabilities in Public Schools; Providing requirements for the use of physical restraint; providing requirements for the use of exclusionary and nonexclusionary time; providing requirements for documenting, reporting, and monitoring the use of restraint and exclusionary or nonexclusionary time; requiring continuing education and inservice training for instructional personnel in teaching students with emotional or behavioral disabilities, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Drinking Water in Public Schools
Drinking Water in Public Schools; Defining the term “drinking water source”; requiring each school district to locate all drinking water sources in certain schools, install a barcode on each source, and install filters that meet certain specifications on all such sources, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
High School Graduation Requirements
High School Graduation Requirements: Revises requirements for Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to include financial literacy; revises required credits for standard high school diploma to include one-half credit of instruction in personal financial literacy & money management & seven & one-half, rather than eight, credits in electives. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
High School Graduation
Requirements/Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act
High School Graduation Requirements/Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act; Designating the act as the “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act”; revising the requirements for the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to include financial literacy; revising the required credits for a standard high school diploma to include one-half credit of instruction in personal financial literacy and money management and seven and one-half, rather than eight, credits in electives, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Instructional Personnel and School Administrator Salary Schedules
Instructional Personnel and School Administrator Salary Schedules: Authorizes district school board to use advanced degree in setting salary schedule for specified employees; requires each district school board to adopt salary schedule for specified employees; authorizes rather than requires district school board to adopt performance salary schedule; authorizes rather than requires district school board to provide for specified salary supplements. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program
Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program; Extending the scheduled expiration of the pilot program, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Instructional Personnel Salaries
Instructional Personnel Salaries: Requires funding Florida Education Finance Program at certain level; provides statewide minimum salary for instructional personnel; provides for annual salary adjustments. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Instructional Personnel Salaries; Creating the “Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act”; requiring the Legislature to fund the Florida Education Finance Program at a level that ensures that certain schedules guarantee a minimum annual starting salary for instructional personnel; specifying a statewide minimum salary for all instructional personnel for the 2019-2020 fiscal year; requiring the Department of Education to annually calculate an adjusted statewide minimum annual starting salary, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Mental Health Education in Schools
Mental Health Education in Schools: Revises requirements for comprehensive health education; provides requirements for mental & emotional health education. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
False Personation; Adding school guardians to the list of officials the false personation of whom is prohibited and is subject to criminal penalties, etc.; Effective Date: 10/1/2019
Retirement of School District Personnel
Employment After Retirement of School District Personnel: Provides that retired instructional personnel may immediately after termination become employed by school district as substitute teacher; authorizes retired instructional personnel to be reemployed as substitute teacher & continue receiving retirement benefits; provides requirements for such reemployment. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Tobacco-free Schools; Requiring each school district to adopt a policy that prohibits the use or distribution of tobacco products in school facilities, on school grounds, in school vehicles, and at school functions; requiring that each school district adopt a policy to refer individuals to voluntary cessation education and support programs that address tobacco use; prohibiting the use of school facilities, school real property, or vehicles owned by a school district for the advertisement of any tobacco product, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Panic Alarms in Public Schools
Panic Alarms in Public Schools; Citing this act as “Alyssa’s Law”; requiring each public school building on the campus of a public elementary school, middle school, or high school to be equipped with at least one panic alarm, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Student Elopement: Requires public schools to create Staff Assistance for Emergencies (SAFE) Team & school elopement plan; provides requirements for team & plan; requires & provides requirements for elopement quick reference guides for certain students; requires public schools to annually submit their plans to district school board. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
High School Equivalency Diploma Program
High School Equivalency Diploma Program: Provides for award of high school equivalency diploma to students who meet specified criteria relating to high school graduation requirements. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Postsecondary Education for Secondary Students
Postsecondary Education for Secondary Students: Requires instructional materials be made available to certain dual enrollment students free of charge; provides additional options for students participating in early college program; revises program, contract, notification, & reporting requirements; authorizes charter schools to establish early college programs; provides that certain students & schools are not responsible for specified costs; provides FTE bonuses under certain circumstances. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Study of the Bible and Religion
Study of the Bible and Religion: Requires each school district to offer specified courses relating to religion, Hebrew Scriptures, & Bible to certain students as elective courses; provides course requirements. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
District School Taxes
District School Taxes: Authorizes district school board to levy up to 2.0 mills, rather than 1.5 mills, for specified purposes by supermajority vote of school board. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Education: Provides that district school board may not prohibit student from lawfully wearing uniform of any branch of military or naval service of United States or of state at graduation ceremony. Effective Date: upon becoming a law
Mastery-based Education; Renaming the Competency-Based Education Pilot Program as the Mastery-Based Education Pilot Program; authorizing a district school board participating in the Mastery-Based Education Pilot Program to award credit based on student mastery of certain content and skills; authorizing a district school board participating in the Mastery-Based Education Pilot Program to use an alternative interpretation of letter grades for certain students, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board
Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board: Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to limit the terms of office for a member of a district school board.
High School Academic Advisors
High School Academic Advisors; Requiring schools that serve students in grades 9 through 12 to designate academic advisors; requiring students who meet specified criteria to meet with an academic advisor within a specified timeframe, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Senior Citizen and Teacher Property Tax Protection
Senior Citizen and Teacher Property Tax Protection: Prohibits tax collector from including on forms, assessing, or collecting certain charges on property tax bills for certain identified populations; prohibits tax collector to authorize debt collection entity to collect certain charges on property tax bills for certain identified populations; prohibits tax collector from selling tax certificate on certain properties if only outstanding amounts due are for delinquent payment of property tax; requires DOR to work with tax collectors to identify mechanisms, strategies, & funding sources for helping certain populations pay for delinquent charges. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board
Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board; Proposing amendments to State Constitution to limit the terms of office for a member of a district school board, etc.
Placement of Instructional Personnel
Placement of Instructional Personnel; Prohibiting the use of a specified student learning growth formula as the only factor in determining the placement of certain instructional personnel, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Medicaid School-based Services
Medicaid School-based Services; Revising applicable provisions for the reimbursement of school-based services by the Agency for Health Care Administration to certain school districts; deleting a requirement specifying the use of certified state and local education funds for school-based services; revising a requirement for the agency’s reimbursement of school-based services to certain private and charter schools, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Education; Prohibiting a district school board from prohibiting a student from lawfully wearing the uniform of any branch of the military or naval service of the United States or of the state at his or her graduation ceremony, etc. Effective Date: Upon becoming a law
Summer Youth Service Learning Program
Summer Youth Service Learning Program: creates summer youth service learning program; provides SBE, DOE, employer, student, & program requirements; provides for funding & rulemaking. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Educational Facilities; Authorizing a school district, in the absence of a survey recommendation, to use funds from a taxpayer-approved bond referendum to fund construction of educational, auxiliary, or ancillary facilities and to use funds from a specified district school tax for certain capital outlay purposes; prohibiting a district school board from using funds from any source, other than specified local sources, for certain new construction of educational plant space; revising the costs that may not be included in calculating the cost per student station, etc. Effective Date: Upon becoming a law
Alternative High School Graduation Requirements
Alternative High School Graduation Requirements; Providing that, as of a specified school year, certain students are eligible to complete an alternative pathway to a standard high school diploma; specifying alternative pathways; requiring that students provide verified documentation of completion of an alternative pathway, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force
Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force: Creates Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force within DOE; provides requirements for task force; provides for expiration of task force. Effective Date: upon becoming a law
Educational Standards for K-12 Public Schools
Educational Standards for K-12 Public Schools; Revising the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards; providing that such standards are the minimum baseline core content standards for K-12 public schools; revising the requirements for instructional materials that a district school superintendent annually certifies, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force
Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force; Establishing the Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force within the Department of Education for the purpose of making recommendations on school accommodations for exceptional students; providing duties of the task force and the department, etc. Effective Date: Upon becoming a law
Students with Disabilities in Public Schools
Students with Disabilities in Public Schools: Provides requirements for use of physical restraint & exclusionary & nonexclusionary time; prohibits specified physical restraint techniques; provides requirements for school districts, schools, and school personnel; requires continuing education & inservice training for instructional personnel in teaching certain students. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Apprenticeship Programs: Requires DOE to provide annual report to Legislature & State Apprenticeship Advisory Council; requires department to provide certain information on its website; requires department to develop & manage Florida Apprenticeship Grant Program, subject to appropriation of funds by Legislature; authorizes certain registered program sponsors to apply for grant awards to help fund apprenticeship programs; requires department to perform certain duties related to apprenticeships. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Florida K-20 Public Education System
Discrimination In Florida K-20 Public Education System: Prohibits discrimination in K-20 public education system based on religion; requires public K-20 educational institution to take into consideration anti-Semitism under certain instances of discrimination; defines “anti-Semitism.” Effective Date: July 1, 2019
School District Career
School District Career Centers: Authorizes school district career centers to conduct certain associate degree nursing programs. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Medical Use of Marijuana in Schools
Medical Use of Marijuana in Schools; Authorizing a qualified patient to designate more than one caregiver to assist with the qualified patient’s medical use of marijuana if the qualified patient is a student whose parent has requested that a county-designated caregiver assist the student with the medical use of marijuana during the school day; providing a procedure for a parent of a student who is a qualified patient to request that marijuana be administered to the student during the school day; prohibiting a school from obstructing a student who is a qualified patient from accessing marijuana during the school day, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Mastery-based Education: Provides for alternative award of credits & letter grades under certain circumstances; renames Competency-Based Education Pilot Program as Mastery-Based Education Pilot Program; authorizes public school districts to submit applications for program & amend applications for specified purposes relating to credits & letter grades; provides requirements for such changes; revises statewide articulation agreement. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Employment after Retirement of School District Personnel
Employment after Retirement of School District Personnel; Establishing an exception to reemployment after retirement limitations to authorize retired instructional staff to be employed as substitute teachers before meeting the definition of termination; requiring the State Board of Administration and the Department of Management Services to request a determination letter and private letter ruling from the United States Internal Revenue Service, etc. Effective Date: Except as otherwise expressly provided in this act and except for this section, which shall take effect upon becoming a law, this act shall take effect January 1, 2020
High School Graduation Requirements
High School Graduation Requirements; Revising the required credits for certain students for a standard high school diploma to include one-half credit of instruction in civics and seven and one-half, rather than eight, credits in electives; requiring certain students to correctly answer a minimum number of questions on a test identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Election of the Commissioner of Education
Election of the Commissioner of Education; Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to provide for the election of the Commissioner of Education and his or her inclusion as a member of the Cabinet and the State Board of Education, etc.
High School Equivalency Diploma Program
High School Equivalency Diploma Program; Providing additional qualifications for the award of a high school equivalency diploma to students who meet specified criteria relating to high school graduation requirements, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Funding for School Districts
Funding for School Districts; Holding harmless certain funding to school districts that enrolled students from certain counties as a result of Hurricane Michael; requiring that a calculation and allocation be made; providing that the funds calculated support a nonrecurring appropriation, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Apprenticeship Programs; Requiring the Department of Education to provide a specified annual report to the Legislature and the State Apprenticeship Advisory Council; requiring the department to develop and manage the Florida Apprenticeship Grant Program, subject to appropriation of funds by the Legislature; authorizing certain registered apprenticeship program sponsors to apply for grant awards to help fund apprenticeship programs, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Preapprenticeship and Apprenticeship Programs
Preapprenticeship and Apprenticeship Programs: Creates Earn & Learn Grant Program within DOE; provides DOE responsibilities; provides requirements for preapprenticeship & apprenticeship programs receiving grant funds; establishes Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion within DEO; provides for composition & meetings; requires DEO to provide specified assistance; requires task force to submit report to Governor & Legislature by specified date; provides for termination of task force; provides appropriations; requires percentage of students engaged in apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program to be used in determining school’s grade. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Drinking Water in Public Schools
Drinking Water in Public Schools: Requires each school district to locate all drinking water sources in certain schools, install barcode on each source, & install filters that meet certain specifications on all such sources; requires such schools to post certain signage on certain water sources & to publish specified information on school district’s website. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday
Back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday; Providing exemptions from the sales and use tax on the retail sale of certain clothing, school supplies, personal computers, and personal computer-related accessories during a specified timeframe; specifying locations where the exemptions do not apply, etc. APPROPRIATION: $225,000.00 Effective Date: Upon becoming a law
Charter Schools; Prohibiting charter schools from operating as, or being operated by, a for-profit corporation, a for-profit educational management organization, or a for-profit charter management organization; prohibiting a charter school from entering into a subcontract to avoid certain requirements, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Structurally Sound and Accessible School Facilities
Structurally Sound and Accessible School Facilities; Providing that all students have certain rights relating to attending schools that meet specific standards; requiring that certain new school facilities be constructed in compliance with public shelter design criteria; requiring a startup charter school to use facilities that comply with the State Requirements for Educational Facilities; requiring the governing authority of a state scholarship-participating private school to require that any new construction, remodeling, or renovation of school facilities comply with the Florida Building Code and the State Requirements for Educational Facilities, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Medicaid School-based Services
Medicaid School-based Services: Revises provisions relating to reimbursement of school-based services by AHCA to certain school districts & private & charter schools; specifies that U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is authorized to waive certain school-based provider qualifications. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Possession of Firearms on School Property
Possession of Firearms on School Property: Revises provisions relating to possession of firearms in student campus parking. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
Collective Bargaining for Instructional Personnel
Collective Bargaining for Instructional Personnel; Removing a requirement that each school district and the certified collective bargaining unit for instructional personnel within each district negotiate a specified memorandum of understanding; removing a requirement that certain certified collective bargaining units include specified information in their applications for renewal of registration, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2019
Collective Bargaining: Prohibits collective bargaining agreements that authorize or require public employer to compensate public employee or third party for employee organization activities. Effective Date: July 1, 2019
By Lindsey Bailey
“Education is not simply the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yates
Twenty years ago, my tenth grade English teacher gave our class a writing assignment that has stayed with me to this day. At this point in my schooling career, there was little that had inspired or motivated me. But, this assignment was different and had sparked something in me. As I began forming a story, there was this feeling of excitement and intensity that I felt. I couldn’t wait to turn in my paper. But, much to my surprise, instead of a glowing review, my teacher asked if I had found this story on the internet and copied it. Instead of accolades, he said he wouldn’t give me a grade at all since it couldn’t be proven that the words were my own. He disregarded the paper and in the process something deep within me was disregarded as well. I was completely deflated. The small flame that had ignited while writing was quickly snuffed out.
Fast forward several years, I was in a college, prerequisite English class. I turned in my first paper. I remember that the assignment had once again caused this excited feeling as I typed the words. I edited and reviewed each word with a passionate intensity I didn’t recognize in myself. The light that had been buried beneath an insecure girl was once again flickering. This time, after turning in my paper, the professor took time and wrote some constructive, specific feedback along with a glowing review. It wasn’t just a ‘good job’, but specific analysis that inspired me. This professor had seen the dim light. Paper after paper, my confidence grew. He had this uncanny ability to illuminate something that I didn’t even know existed. He saw the light. He intensified this light with his words and time.
Two very different scenarios show what a powerful role a teacher plays in a student’s life. One person was able to see a flickering light within me and intensify it, the other almost turned the light off completely. Teachers are in this unbelievable position to either see darkness and weakness or find light and strength in their students. It is a powerful role. Looking for strengths even when the strengths don’t necessarily look like everyone else’s is an incredible opportunity. It is a catalyst for change in the lives of our students. I am not talking about arbitrary compliments. I’m talking about truly seeing a child and discovering the hidden light within each one. The light could be buried under insecurities, anger from past failure or a rebellious attitude from a dysfunctional home life. But, there is light and strength somewhere within that child.
The words a teacher speaks over a child stay long after they are uttered. I remember graduating college and saying goodbye to my photography professor. He looked straight into my eyes and with conviction, he said loud enough for an entire sidewalk of students passing by, ‘YOU ARE AN ARTIST”. The words in and of themselves were nothing magical, but the power of a teacher who I looked up to speaking those words over me were long lasting. Your words have the power to ignite life within each child. Remember your amazing and unique role as a teacher. As a new school year begins, let it be a year where you seek and ignite the light within your students.
By: Jen Pace & Lindsey Bailey
“While helping a high school, female student with a math problem, she looked me in the eye pulled the collar of her shirt down and asked, ‘what are you looking at?’ I was taken aback and angered by the false accusation. I was a young, male teacher, and although there was no wrong doing on my part, I realized how quickly my career and reputation could be taken away. Thankfully, nothing came from this situation. But, nonetheless, I was horrified and angry at the thought of how easily doing my job as a teacher could have been skewed.” –Former Florida Educator
We have seen stories on the news and heard the unthinkable from coworkers. It is every teacher’s worst nightmare. The accusations can range from unfair treatment, changing a student’s grade to something much scarier like sexual allegations. You may even be able to remember a time that this has happened in your own school or county. What do you do when an accusation is made toward you as an educator? Although it can be a very scary situation, there is a proper way to respond, so that the truth and your career is preserved.
There are four things to consider when you have been falsely accused.
- Stay Calm. Any time, a person’s reputation and name is at stake, it can be emotionally charging. You cannot always control what happens, but you can control your response. Stop. Take a breath. Calm down and be sure to respond instead of react. Believe it or not, accusations happen all of the time to every type of teacher. As an educator, you are in the public eye, and you are working closely with others. This opens you up to criticism and possible accusations. It doesn’t make it right, but understand that this can happen to anyone.
- Keep Documentation. If the accusation that has been made is in reference to a specific situation, you should go ahead and write down your account of what happened while the situation is still fresh on your mind. Include a listing of those who were witness to the events in question. Be transparent and detailed with logistics. An email to yourself is a good way to document issues as it automatically provides a valid time and date stamp of your account.
- Reach Out. Be sure to reach out to administration as soon as possible to communicate. It is better for administration to hear of the incident from you than from someone else. If a parent is acting abusive or overbearing, then having your administration as a back-up is a positive and is not a sign of weakness. If a formal complaint has not been made, reach out to the person in question and try to talk through the situation to make peace (with administration present if necessary).
- Contact PEN right away. In the case that a formal accusation is made and the district decides to investigate; be sure to contact PEN right away. If a District Investigation is initiated, you will have a PEN lawyer assigned to you who will walk you through this process and be there to support and defend each step of the way. Comply with the District’s questions and requests. Compliance shows that you have nothing to hide. Answer any questions that are asked of you, because this gives you the chance to share your side of the story. Sometimes the investigation will be done by a police officer. Other times an investigation will be done by a district representative. Both are normal. A key point to remember is that an investigation is not equivalent to being disciplined. An investigation ends in Progressive Discipline IF wrongdoing is proved. Furthermore, your contract outlines the steps of Progressive Discipline that the district must follow. Be sure to keep any documentation the district gives you.
In the end, most of the time an accusation or a defamatory comment does not end in an investigation. Still, this can be a very painful thing to endure. If you have specific questions related to District Investigations or dealing with accusations on the job please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Jen Pace
If you have been working in a school for any time at all, you have more than likely experienced this first-hand or have seen it happening among other coworkers. Even the most non-confrontational people can find themselves in this situation. Conflict between teachers and administrators is one the most common reasons why we (PEN, the Professional Educators Network of Florida) are contacted by an administrator or a teacher. Sometimes, getting an outside opinion can be invaluable. Here are a few tips to help navigate through the potential landmines when dealing with interpersonal conflict at work:
- Set a time to communicate. Ask if there is a good time to talk. Setting a time to talk about an issue, shows respect and allows both parties to be mentally ready to face issues.
- Stay emotionally open. Resist the urge to be on the defense. One method to remain emotionally open is to ‘listen, listen, listen, speak; listen, listen, speak; listen, speak.” Ask questions. Repeat back what you heard for clarification. Instead of defending an action, ask for clear directives on what would be a better response next time. Finally, if something upset you emotionally, ask the party if you can share it respectfully. Both parties may not always agree, but you can show respect by validating feelings and listening with empathy.
- Consider situational factors of behaviors. Human nature tends to have a bias when judging the behavior of others. If someone acts in a way we do not like, we tend to make a judgment on the personality or disposition of the individual. When we judge our own behavior we can often look at situational factors that impact our response. Be sure to consider the situations a person is facing day-to-day that might impact their behavior.
- Attend all meetings you are asked to attend without rebuttal. At PEN, we often get emails from teachers when there is already a hostile relationship between a teacher and principal. The question inevitably is “Do I have to attend this meeting?” The answer is yes; you must attend a meeting that a superior asks you to attend. If you fear meeting alone, it is okay to ask if you need to have a representative there in the meeting.
- Document interactions, both positive and negative, if you notice the conflict escalating. If you begin to notice a hostile relationship in the workplace, it is wise to begin keeping record of both the positive and negative interactions as well as any other parties who may have been present to witness the interaction. This is also a good time to ask advice from PEN. If the situation escalates to bullying or harassment, it is very hard to prove, so documentation is key in these instances.
Administrators and teachers are typically on the same page with mindset and goals, and they are ultimately on the same team. Deal with conflict instead of avoiding it so that everyone can focus on the students in your care. If you have specific questions please email us at email@example.com