Apr 17, 2024 - News

DeSantis signs law requiring K–12 lessons on communism's "evils"

Photo illustration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis inside a backpack, peeking out.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law this week a flurry of education bills, including a mandate that kids learn the "dangers and evils" of communism starting in kindergarten.

Why it matters: Reshaping the state's public education system — including by directing what can and can't be discussed in classrooms — has defined DeSantis' tenure as governor and laid the groundwork for his failed presidential campaign.

Between the lines: This week's signings indicate the governor continues to push for changes that some say undermine the public school system in favor of charter and private schools.

  • But the governor also sought to clean up a mess caused by a law he signed last year.

Case in point: DeSantis signed a bill that limits the number of book titles residents without children in school districts can challenge in libraries and classrooms to one per month.

  • It amends a law DeSantis championed that let residents petition for the removal of books that include sexual material. He conceded that some school districts had gone too far — though he blamed most of it on "activists."
  • Florida has banned more books than any other state, with literary nonprofit PEN America noting 1,406 examples of books being removed from the shelves between July 1, 2022 and June 31, 2023.

Friction point: In a statement Tuesday, Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said the new law "does nothing to fix the vague language that caused the issue in the first place."

  • And some civil rights groups say a proposed rule that would penalize school principals for preventing students from looking at books in the school library "without legal cause to do so" is just as vague and confusing as the original law, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Zoom in: The sweeping education bill signed Tuesday also boosts "classical learning," a model many conservatives champion, and speeds up the process of converting a struggling traditional public school into a charter.

  • DeSantis also signed a bill on Wednesday requiring public schools to teach "age-appropriate" lessons about communism's harms from kindergarten through 12th grade.
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