Jun 24, 2021 - Politics

DeSantis takes aim at student "indoctrination" in Florida

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

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

Following his successful effort to ban critical race theory in public schools, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his war against student "indoctrination" on Wednesday.

What's happening: DeSantis signed three pieces of education legislation yesterday — all of which could have wide-ranging impacts on students' education and schools' funding.

  1. Requires state colleges and universities to annually survey their students, faculty and staff about their beliefs to ensure "viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom."
  2. Protects free speech by preventing state colleges and universities from limiting student access to ideas "they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive."
  3. Creates a K-12 civics curriculum that contrasts the U.S. with communist and totalitarian governments using "portraits in patriotism."

Why it matters: DeSantis hinted his administration might cut funding to schools that don't comply. "That’s not worth tax dollars and that’s not something that we’re going to be supporting moving forward," he said.

  • He was short on specifics, as the Tampa Bay Times notes, failing to name any schools or incidents to back up his claims of "intellectually repressive environments."
  • The legislation as written includes no guarantees that the survey results will remain anonymous.

The big picture: Other top Republicans quickly fell in line.

  • Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) called Florida's public universities "socialism factories" at a state university system’s Board of Governors meeting in St. Pete.

The other side: One of DeSantis' 2022 Democratic challengers, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called the bills "what authoritarian regimes do."

What's next: The law goes into effect on July 1. The survey will be conducted annually with reports published each September, starting in 2022.


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