Public School Chaplains, Other Education Laws Take Effect Monday in Florida

Changes include prohibiting identity politics in teacher prep programs, lessening child labor restrictions and more

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The 2024 legislative session saw approval of divisive education-related laws, several of which take effect Monday. Read our partial run-down on what will change in Sunshine State schools in the new fiscal year:

HB 931: Volunteer school chaplains

Despite queasiness on this score in other GOP-controlled states, a Florida law implementing volunteer chaplains in schools will take effect Monday.

The law has generated concern regarding the qualifications required of chaplains and separation of church and state.

Volunteer chaplains must pass a background check — the law specifies no other qualifications. Applicants must submit their name and religious affiliation to the school for public disclosure.

Members of the Satanic Temple have indicated they would participate in the program, the prospect of which stalled the program in some states but not Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a bill signing in April, “You don’t have to worry” about satanists participating in the chaplain program because “that is not a religion. That is not qualified to be able to participate in this.”

The group claims to be recognized by the IRS as a church.

The bill faced pushback on ground of religious indoctrination from the ACLU, Interfaith Alliance, and National Education Association.

HB 1291: Prohibits identity politics in teacher prep programs

Teacher preparation programs in Florida, effective Monday, may not include instruction on “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.”

A sponsor of the bill, Rep. Berny Jacques, a Republican from Pinellas County, said the law allows the government to “take out the trash once and for all,” arguing that diversity, equity, and inclusion; critical race theory; and “all of that stuff is simply trash.”

DeSantis said of teacher preparation programs, “There’s not going to be any of the bogus history. It’s just going to be standard teacher preparation without having an ideological agenda.”

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said the bill takes “valuable tools away from educators” and will deprive students of critical life skills.

HB 49: Lessening child labor restrictions

Minors aged 16 and 17 will be allowed to work more than six consecutive days in a week, effective Monday.

The new law allows them to work more than 8 hours on holidays and weekends, and allows parents or a school superintendent to permit them to work more than 30 hours per week when school is in session.

The work restrictions do not apply to those who are home schooled or attend virtual school.

DeSantis signed the bill into law in March, notifying the public via a news release announcing 25 total bill signings.

HB 1403: Expansion of school choice programs

Monday marks an increased number of school choice scholarships available to Florida families.

The law increases Family Empowerment Unique Ability voucher availability to 72,615 students with unique abilities – an increase of approximately 32,000 students.

Deadlines for payments by scholarship funding organizations and the Department of Education to voucher recipients are codified under this law, which allows no more than a week for tuition and fee payments to be rendered after their approval.

The law combines Hope Scholarship vouchers and Florida Tax Credit vouchers and expands scholarship programs to dependent children of active-duty military members who have permanent change-of-station orders to Florida.

Additionally, scholarship funding organizations are required to submit an annual list of items by Aug. 1 this year and each July 1 in the years following that are prohibited to be purchased with vouchers. In the most recent year, tickets to amusement parks, TVs, paddle boards, and more were eligible for purchase for families who home-schooled children.

The measure passed the Senate unanimously and had bipartisan support in the House.

HB 1473: School safety

Schools have until Aug. 1 to comply with a law that takes effect Monday mandating that all entry points and classroom doors in public schools must be locked when students are on campus, unless guarded by a staff member.

Failure to comply would subject staff members to discipline including mandatory training in safety requirements.

The law replaces a 12-hour diversity-training requirement with training in de-escalating incidents.

The measure passed both chambers with unanimous support.

SB 1264: History of communism

With Democrats divided, the Legislature voted to expand instruction in the history of communism.

The law creates an Institute for Freedom in the Americas at Miami-Dade College to “preserve the ideals of a free society and promote democracy in the Americas” and renames the Adam Smith Center for the Study of Economic Freedom at Florida International University to the Adam Smith Center for Economic Freedom.

The law requires that students, starting in 2026, be taught about communism as soon as kindergarten. Previously, communism curricula did not begin until seventh grade in Florida public schools.

DeSantis said while signing the bill that the number of “leftist governments” in the Western Hemisphere is higher today than during the Cold War. He blamed “apologists for communism in our society” for the necessity of the law.

The Florida Department of Education is responsible for crafting the curricula, which must include the “atrocities committed in foreign countries under the guidance of communism.” The law states that the department may seek input from “victims of communism or any state or nationally recognized organization dedicated to the victims of communism.”

Other laws going into effect Monday

HB 1285: Limits challenges by nonparents to one book per month under the 2022 law that allows parents the ability to object to books available in school libraries and classrooms.

HB 1329: In addition to expanded employment outreach for veterans, this law requires middle schools and high schools to hold 45-minutes of instructional time about Veterans Day and Memorial Day near those holidays.

HB 883: A law authorizing trained staff to use short-acting bronchodilators and schools to buy inhaler devices.

SB 7002: Enables districts to publish notices regarding intentions to adopt budgets meeting schedules on school board websites instead of in newspapers and increases teacher recruitment efforts.

SB 7032: A law to re-engage students who have dropped out of high school by providing them with career education courses; waives tuition within the Florida College System for dropouts who take these courses.


Two of the 13 bills DeSantis has vetoed so far have been education related:

SB 62: Would have provided in-state tuition for those serving time in state or federal prisons but was vetoed by the governor on Tuesday. DeSantis defended the veto, saying, “We should not reward criminal activity by providing inmates with the same benefits as law-abiding citizens.”

SB 494: Would have waived the Graduate Record Examination and the Graduate Management Admission Test for people who have served in the military and who seek acceptance into graduate programs. DeSantis said the tests are necessary but that the motivation for the legislation was laudable. “It is not clear that waiving these tests will be beneficial to our institutions or even, in many cases, to the students themselves.”

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Michael Moline for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and X.

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