Voters in St. Louis, Missouri, will decide on two ballot measures on August 2

On August 2, voters in St. Louis, Missouri, will decide on two ballot measures – Proposition F and Proposition S.

St. Louis Proposition F would amend the city’s charter to increase the maximum fine for violations of ordinances regarding environmental conditions, such as dumping waste and debris and prohibited refuse, from $500 to $1,000. On March 11, 2022, the St. Louis City Council voted 27-0 to place Proposition F on the ballot.

St. Louis Public Schools Proposition S would authorize the Board of Education to issue $160 million in general obligation bonds for school renovations, repairs, and upgrades. Superintendent Kelvin Adams said the bond revenue would cover about half of the district’s needed fixes. “We’re only going to touch the surface of this,” said Adams, “We know for a fact that there are more needs than the dollars will support, but this gets us moving in the right direction.” Voters last approved a bond for St. Louis Public Schools in 2010.

Since 2018, voters in St. Louis, and jurisdictions that include St. Louis, have decided on 16 local ballot measures, approving 13 (81%) and rejecting three (19%). During the last citywide election in St. Louis on April 5, 2022, voters approved two ballot measures – an initiative addressing redistricting and conflict of interest policies and a capital improvements bond measure.   

St. Louis is also holding citywide primaries on August 2, including for the offices of the collector of revenue, license collector, and recorder of deeds.

Maryland parents oppose state health education framework

Some Maryland parents, according to The Washington Post, have expressed opposition to a state health education framework that outlines how educators should teach students about mental and emotional health; substance abuse prevention; family life and human sexuality; safety and violence prevention; healthy eating; and disease prevention and control. Parents argue that the standards for family life and human sexuality education are not age-appropriate and that parents should be allowed to offer input on how their children are taught certain topics. 

The Maryland State Board of Education adopted the framework in 2019 and school districts have recently begun discussing how to implement the family life and human sexuality lessons in their schools. The framework states that students in pre-kindergarten through third grade should be taught about what the framework considers to be healthy relationships and gender identity, such as recognizing that there is “a range of ways people identify and express their gender” and “that there are different types of families.” The framework permits parents to opt their children out of the family life and human sexuality standards beginning in fourth grade. 

A Carroll County resident said at a school board meeting in April, “The government has no right to attempt to replace parents or their decisions regarding what their children learn,” according to the Post.

Brad Young, the president of the Frederick County school board said, “[The school board’s] job is to set policy for the school system, listen to the community, and adopt [the curriculum]. And if they would let that process work, I think in the end, people would be fine with the outcome,” according to the Post

Additional reading:

Florida Department of Education aims to avoid critical race theory and social justice in social studies textbooks

Florida’s Department of Education issued guidance to textbook publishers informing them on the instructional materials that can and cannot be included in K-12 social studies textbooks. The guidance notes that “Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Social and Emotional Learning, and any other unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination are prohibited.” The specifications also state that “instructional materials should not attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a viewpoint inconsistent with Florida standards.”  

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said, “We’re working to make sure that the purpose of the school system is to educate our kids, not to indoctrinate our kids. And that’s what parents want to see. So, we are doing more than anybody on education across the board,” according to Miami Herald.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) opposed the guidance and said, “Gov. DeSantis is bringing a brand of authoritarianism to Florida that Putin, Maduro or Castro would applaud,” according to Politico

The deadline for textbook publishers to submit their social studies proposals to the Florida Department of Education is June 10, 2022. 

Additional reading:

Florida Department of Education rejects 41% of K-12 mathematics textbooks

The Florida Department of Education rejected 54 K-12 mathematics textbooks for reasons such as the inclusion of what it deemed prohibited instructional topics and the failure to align with state education standards. The rejected textbooks made up 41% of the 132 textbooks submitted to the education department for review. 

Twenty-eight books were rejected for the inclusion of what were deemed prohibited topics such as critical race theory, Common Core learning concepts, or Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Twelve books were rejected because they did not align with Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards. An additional 14 books were rejected for both including prohibited topics and failing to meet the state’s benchmark standards. 

A press statement released by the Florida Department of Education said, “It is unfortunate that several publishers, especially at the elementary school grade levels, have ignored this clear communication and have attempted to slip rebranded instructional materials based on Common Core Standards into Florida’s classrooms, while others have included prohibited and divisive concepts such as the tenants of CRT or other unsolicited strategies of indoctrination – despite FDOE’s prior notification.” Governor Ron DeSantis (R) expressed support for this decision and stated, “It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students. I’m grateful that Commissioner Corcoran and his team at the Department have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law.” 

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) expressed opposition to the decision on Twitter. He wrote, “@EducationFL just announced they’re banning dozens of math textbooks they claim ‘indoctrinate’ students with CRT. They won’t tell us what they are or what they say b/c it’s a lie. #DeSantis has turned our classrooms into political battlefields and this is just the beginning.”

Additional reading:

Sexual education proposal at center of primary for Nebraska State Board of Education

Three candidates are running in the primary election for Nebraska State Board of Education District 7 on May 10, 2022. Those candidates are incumbent Robin Stevens, Pat Moore, and Elizabeth Tegtmeier. The two candidates to receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election on Nov. 8, 2022.

Stevens faced no opposition in 2018. Before serving on the board, he was an educator for 40 years, most recently as the superintendent of Schuyler Community Schools. Moore is a retired pastor. Tegtmeier is a former public school teacher who left the classroom to homeschool her children.

At the center of this primary is a March 2021 proposal that would have established statewide K-12 health education standards. The proposal included teaching all students about gender identity and stereotypes. High school students would have also learned about homophobia, transphobia, and sexual assault.

Supporters of the draft included the Women’s Fund of Omaha and OutNebraska, an LGBTQ advocacy group. Opponents of the draft included Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and 28 members of the Nebraska State Senate. Ricketts and at least 14 state senators have endorsed Tegtmeier.

A second draft released in July 2021 eliminated the references to gender and sexuality opposed by Ricketts and state senators. In September 2021, the board voted 5-1 to pause the process of developing these new standards indefinitely. Stevens was one of the five who voted to pause the process.

Stevens told the Lexington Clipper-Herald that the board needed to re-establish public trust. “We didn’t do a good job early on of getting the health standards out to people, it hurt us and it hurt us badly. I understand that,” he said.

Tegtmeier said at a campaign event in Gothenburg that she chose to run in this election after hearing state Sen. Mike Groene speak about the proposed health standards. “I didn’t want to get 10 years down the road and have to tell my kids that I thought about doing something but just didn’t do it,” she said.

Moore told the Omaha World-Herald that the proposed health standards showed the board needed change. Moore said, “Some of the processes that have been in place I believe need challenged and some of the thinking the board members have need challenged.”