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DeSantis Touts Civics In Florida Schools

U.S. Department of Education

Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing a $106 million civics education initiative for Florida's public schools, supporting civics literacy and education.

“I’m urging the Legislature to take up this proposal during the current legislative session, using the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund,” said the governor. “So the money’s there; we need to figure out the best way to use it.”

Speaking in Naples on Wednesday, DeSantis said his plan contains an incentive for teachers who earn a "Florida Civics Seal of Excellence" designation.

“And for every teacher completing the training, they will receive a $3,000 bonus,” the governor said. “Under this initiative the department will partner with national leaders in civics professional development to provide a series of modules and micro-credentials that any Florida teacher will be eligible to attain.”

Elsewhere, DeSantis is directing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to require all high school seniors to take a civics exam; passing it as a graduation requirement remains under discussion. The test will be implemented by next school year, but the governor wants a trial run this school year, depending on what’s worked out with lawmakers.

“It doesn’t matter what field you go into; we’re all expected to exercise the duties of citizenship; and that, of course, means voting but it also means being involved in your community,” said DeSantis. “Having graduating kids with the foundational knowledge to understand what makes America unique is really, really important.”

Credit Governor's Office
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

If passed by the Legislature, DeSantis’ civics plan would incorporate what he calls “foundational concepts,” while shunning what he calls “unsanctioned narratives” – the latter including “critical race theory” -- an academic movement by civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the law as it intersects with issues of race.

“Let me be clear – there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other," said the governor. “Our schools are supposed to give people a foundation of knowledge; not supposed to be indoctrination centers.”

In January, DeSantis issued an executive order to reform the education structure, including elimination of Common Core – which had been the standard for a decade. The governor went on to say that a change of venue – so to speak – in the teaching of civics is also aimed at cooling what he believes is a super-heated political atmosphere. A reason for that, he contends, is a lack of a common foundation to reference.

“In terms of understanding the American Revolution; the Constitution, [and] understanding people like [Abraham] Lincoln,” said DeSantis. “Understanding what we did in World War II, [and] fighting the Cold War. All these important things – no matter if your family came on the Mayflower or you just became a naturalized citizen, these principles are meant for you.”

Other features of the package include creation of regional civics coaches to provide support for local programs; $17 million to bolster Florida’s civics curriculum and $6.5 million for a career pathway program to develop partnerships between secondary schools and government institutions. More announcements on civics education are expected from Gov. DeSantis over the next few months.