Ron DeSantis built a name for himself in Florida’s classrooms and used that to win over conservative voters. Expect to hear about it while listening to campaign speeches—a lot. The Republican presidential aspirant is not the first governor to support “parental rights” or restrict discussions of race and gender in classrooms.
On the other hand, DeSantis has won over Republican regulars by establishing a lengthy legislative record as an “education governor” amid fights with Democrats and civil rights groups. Now he plans to tour the country promoting that record to take the helm of the Republican Party.
Since becoming governor in 2019, DeSantis has gained the moniker from conservatives thanks to his policies of codifying a “Parents Bill of Rights,” dramatically expanding school choice, authorizing armed teachers, and campaigning for expanded workforce education. He has also worked with other Republicans to change higher education in Florida by installing important allies in statewide roles, and he has engaged in a public dispute with the College Board over its African American studies course.
When asked what role the president should take in matters of the culture war that pertain to education, DeSantis stated on Fox News on Wednesday, “Because it’s a war on truth, I think we have no choice but to wage war on woke.”
“In Florida, we say we’re the state where woke goes to die,” he later added. “As president, I’m going to make sure woke ideology ends up in the dustbin of history.”
The actions taken by DeSantis are reminiscent of those taken by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.), who was elected in a swing state by focusing on parental rights in education during a time when school closures caused by Covid were frustrating families on all sides of the political spectrum.
However, the state of Florida has enacted the strictest regulations in the country regarding the prohibition of issues of race and gender in the classroom. OnIt has encouraged conservatives in many states, such as Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas, to pass similar legislation. Here are a few of Florida’s legislation and initiatives endorsed by DeSantis that have drawn the interest of other Republican states.
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Promoting a Bill of Rights For Parents
After the pandemic, more attention was paid to K-12 schools worldwide, prompting the Florida legislature to pass the Parental Rights in Education Act last year. Because it prohibits teachers from discussing se*ual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, opponents of the proposal have called it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Restrictions on using a student’s pronouns if they “do not correspond” with their s*x assigned at birth were added to the law by Republican lawmakers during this session. Within five school days of a book challenge being submitted, schools must remove the book from circulation.
There are currently legislation in at least 10 states that specifically address parental rights, and plans to do so have been introduced in the legislatures of the vast majority of states.
Additionally, this year, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a wide “Parents Bill of Rights” bill that has become a centerpiece of the GOP’s education agenda. It lays out the rights of parents in regards to their children’s education, such as the right to participate in teacher-parent conferences, review school budget documents, review course materials, and appear before a school board.
Endorsement In Non-partisan School Board Elections
DeSantis used his political clout to direct almost $2 million into school board races around the state in 2022. Two dozen conservative candidates were elected with the help of his campaign, and the governor has pledged to keep on “flipping seats” in future elections.
Among the many ways in which Florida, the third most populous state in the United States, has been transformed by Governor DeSantis is through his endorsements.
He focused on school board races in areas where incumbents had rejected Republican policies and endorsed 30 conservative candidates. In addition to receiving $1,000 from DeSantis’ campaign group, each of his endorsees also received additional support from Republican legislators.
“For too long, these school boards have not reflected the values of the communities that they were supposedly elected to serve,” DeSantis said in December at a training program for school board members dubbed the “Freedom Blueprint.”
Check here tweet:
Florida Gov. DeSantis mandates all state university systems report funds spent on CRT, DEI https://t.co/FYDYRiSDXz
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 5, 2023
Limiting Racial Education Programs
DeSantis introduced the Individual Freedom Act in 2022, sometimes known as the Stop-WOKE Act, due to its restrictive stance on discussions of race and gender in schools and the workplace. Under the Individual Freedom Act, educators are prohibited from delivering instruction that causes pupils to “feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race, colour, s*x, or national origin.
Despite DeSantis’s explicit request, the law does not allow classes on topics like “white privilege.” Opponents of the law claimed that it was an attempt to “whitewash” the past. DeSantis stated, “We are not going to tell any kindergartener that they are an oppressor based on their race and what may have happened 100 or 200 years ago. And we won’t tell other kids that they face racial oppression.
The DeSantis administration has been using the statute, which has plagued legal challenges, to reject the College Board’s proposed new Advanced Placement African American studies course.After criticizing the nonprofit exam developer for integrating lectures on queer theory and intersectionality, DeSantis pushed for revisions.
Since then, Florida legislators have debated whether or not to establish state-run programs and tests leading to university credit.
Stop Requiring Covid In Schools
DeSantis’ actions during the pandemic may have catapulted him into the national spotlight and made him a more viable candidate for the presidency. After the epidemic forced the closure of schools, the governor did not hold back from clashing with schools in an effort to get pupils back into classes for in-person instruction.
He was sued by the Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union, over his decision to force schools to reopen for in-person instruction by threatening to cut off funding to those that didn’t comply. He issued an executive order that put the responsibility for mask use squarely in the hands of parents in response to covid mandates imposed on schools.
He relied on parents’ legal authority to “make health care decisions for their minor children.” Later, DeSantis made news for urging kids to take off their masks during an event, which he deemed “ridiculous” and “Covid theater.” DeSantis-backed members of school boards have started ousting educational leaders who enforced epidemic rules now that Covid-19 has faded.