Updated Jan 18, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Florida bans state colleges from using public funding for DEI

Florida education commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. speaks during a news conference

Florida education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. speaks during a news conference in June 2022. Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Florida's Board of Education announced a new rule Wednesday banning public colleges from using state and federal funds for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, activities and policies.

Why it matters: The new restriction will ensure that "taxpayer funds can no longer be used to promote DEI" at Florida's 28 state colleges, the board wrote in a press release.

State of play: The rule defines DEI as "any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification."

  • Restricting DEI at the schools in the Florida College System could impact campus clubs, classes and other programs at the institutions.
  • However, the rule carves out an exception for campus activities required for "compliance with federal laws or regulations" and retaining institutional accreditation.
  • "Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies," Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said in the press release.

What's more: The Florida Board of Education also passed another rule Wednesday replacing a "Principles of Sociology" course with a general education course in American history.

  • The board said doing so would give students "an accurate and factual account of the nation's past, rather than exposing them to radical woke ideologies," which the board said had become "commonplace" in the sociology course.

Between the lines: DEI programs on college campuses are meant to support historically underrepresented students and faculty members, such as people of color, people with disabilities and veterans.

What they're saying: In an emailed statement to Axios, Diaz said it was "unacceptable to use taxpayer dollars to support programs that categorize individuals by their race or sex."

  • "DEI is DOA in Florida," he added.

The big picture: The new move builds on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' broader efforts to restrict DEI.

  • DeSantis signed legislation last May prohibiting the state's colleges and universities from spending any state or federal dollars on programs and campus activities that advocate for DEI policies or social activism.
  • The law required the state's Board of Education to enact rules to implement that restriction.
  • It also created a mechanism for the state to review college courses, majors, and minors and remove ones with lessons "based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege" are inherent in the U.S.

Go deeper: Anti-DEI movement expands in politics, business and academics

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Diaz.

Go deeper