In January 2020, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI) with The Marcus Foundation to elevate civic knowledge, civic skills, and civics disposition for middle and high school students. However, the pandemic delayed the implementation of the program. During his Wednesday press conference, DeSantis reinforced his commitment to high quality education and to the teachers who pursue excellence in his state.
Among DeSantis' first initiatives as Governor were the elimination of Common Core from the Florida curriculum, the signing into law of "milestone civic literacy legislation," and a significant Executive Order in 2019 to make Florida a leader in vocational and technical education by the year 2030. The results of the Florida audit of the career and technical education (CTE) programs can be found here.
In 2020 he committed to and succeeded in the passage of legislation that took the average minimum salary for teachers in Florida from the bottom half of states to the top five. In addition, The Marcus Foundation earmarked $5 million to increase Florida student’s access to speech and debate program. "Before the initiative was created, there were 11 school districts in Florida that participated in debate. In FCDI’s first year, Florida now has 59 active teams in 30 different school districts across the state."
The Florida Department of Education states as their mission for Civic Literacy as one which "prepares students to become civically engaged and knowledgeable adults who make positive contributions to their communities. Florida students will graduate with sufficient knowledge of America's civics, particularly the principles reflected in the United States Constitution, so as to be capable of discharging their responsibilities as American citizens." A list of some of the resources for the program is listed below:
Resources/Civic Literacy Florida
De Santis wants to make Florida the leader in civics education with his $106 million proposal. He is requesting that the state legislature take up the proposal during the current legislative session using the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) through the CARES Act. "The curriculum prioritizes the development and support of high-quality civics education and rewards classroom teachers who take part in it," explained DeSantis.
The Florida Education Department will create a Florida Civics Seal of Excellence, the symbol of the proposed professional development program which will provide a series of modules and credentials that will be available to Florida teachers. Those teachers who complete the modules will receive the Civics Seal of Excellence and a $3000 bonus. Civics will be ideally incorporated into multiple subject areas, not just history. The state will bring in some of the best experts in the country to support teachers in Florida classrooms.
$16.5 million will also be dedicated to additional training, professional development, and classroom support for principals and teachers seeking to elevate civics education in their schools. It would also include $6.5 million toward a career pathways program to launch pilots for public service incubators to develop partnerships between secondary schools and government institutions. Through these public service partnerships, "professional and volunteer pathways" will be created to give students experience with the role of public service, "to inspire the next generation of public servants."
DeSantis said that coursework that features critical race theory has no place in the Florida education system. “Let me be clear: there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory,” DeSantis said. “Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.” He added, "They’re trying to make people view each other based on race, I want to do the opposite, I want to treat people as individuals. I want to treat people based on character, but when you put this curriculum in, it ends up creating more divisions.”
DeSantis said that a solid grasp of the United States Constitution has become a "lost art." Coursework featuring ideology sold as facts have become the norm in universities, according to DeSantis.“Having graduating kids with the foundational knowledge to understand what makes America unique understand the principles that people have fought for, is really really important and especially in a time where, you know, we have so much political bitterness,” DeSantis said.