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Miami-Dade lawmakers mull gender-specific schools

Two Miami-Dade lawmakers have filed legislation that would encourage Florida school districts to try gender-specific classrooms.

The proposal, by state Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., of Hialeah, and Sen. Anitere Flores, of Miami, would designate state funding to help five school systems pilot the idea at an elementary school.

The initiative would cost no more than $1 million, Diaz said.

"There is a school of thought that boys develop slower and girls are always ahead in elementary school," Diaz said. "At the same time, there is also research that shows that girls can be intimidated in some classes and not speak up as much."

If the proposal becomes law, parents would have the ability to opt in (or opt out) of the gender-specific schools. The students would all come together for lunch, and classes such as art, music and foreign language. 

Diaz envisions the pilot program lasting for two years. He considers it an important step in expanding school choice.

"There's a conspiracy theory that Republicans are all about school choice because they favor charter schools," Diaz said. "A lot of school choice exists through our traditional public schools. This is another avenue for us to create more options for parents."

Diaz already has the support of Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie, who has a handful of gender-specific classrooms in his district.

"Single gender opportunities provide choice and innovation options to meet the diverse learning and social emotional needs of our students,” Runcie said in a statement.

The Miami-Dade district has two single-gender magnet schools: The Young Women's Preparatory Academy in Little Havana and The Young Men's Preparatory Academy in Allapattah.