Archives for category: DeSantis

Kathryn Joyce of Salon has written one dynamite article after another about the movement to destroy public education. In this post, she writes that Florida was ranked # 1 in “educational freedom” by the far-right Heritage Foundation, which wants to privatize all schools. This is a brilliant, must-read article!

Arizona, which has pushed hard to expand charters and vouchers, came in a close second.

That claim, along with the fact that the list’s top 20 states are mostly deep “red” and its bottom 10 are almost all dark “blue,” might come as a surprise to education watchers who are familiar with more traditional assessments of education performance. But in the Heritage Foundation’s inaugural “Education Freedom Report Card,” the think tank is grading according to a different metric entirely: not things like average student funding, teacher salary or classroom size, but how easily state legislatures enable students to leave public schools; how lightly private schools and homeschooling are regulated; how active and welcome conservative parent-advocacy groups are; and how frequently or loudly those groups claim that schools are indoctrinating students….

In the category of education choice, Heritage’s primary focus is on education savings accounts(ESAs), a form of school voucher that allows parents to opt out of public schools and use a set amount of state funding (sometimes delivered via debit card) on almost any educational expenses they see fit. ESAs can be used towards charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and low-cost (and typically low-quality) “voucher schools,” as well as online schools, homeschooling expenses, unregulated “microschools” (where a group of parents pool resources to hire a private teacher) or tutoring. The report’s methodology also notes that the percentage of children in a state who attend these alternatives to public schools figures into its rankings, implying that families who choose traditional public schools are not considered examples of educational “freedom.” The “choice” category also awards points based on how non-public schools are regulated, docking states that require accreditation or the same level of testing mandated for public schools.

States can lose points if they have credentialed teachers and gain points if they let anyone without any credentials teach. They also lose points if they have good pension plans and unions. They gain points by having strong bans on “critical race theory” and gain points for teaching patriotic history.

What’s especially noteworthy about this report — which Heritage says it will release on an annual basis — is how closely most of its ranking criteria track with the right’s broader education agenda. Over the last few months, almost all the issues addressed in this report have been highlighted as key action items for conservative education reformers, from the promotion of ESAs, as a preferred pathway to universal school vouchers, to alternative teacher credentialing to the expansion of the anti-CRT movement, which now encompasses anything related to “diversity, equity and inclusion…”

Framing the report by invoking the libertarian economist [Milton] Friedman — who, over the course of his controversial career, proposed eliminating Social Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the licensing of doctors and more — is a telling choice. In a foundational 1955 essay, as Heritage notes, Friedman famously argued that “government-administered schooling” was incompatible with a freedom-loving society, and that public funding of education should be severed from public administration of it — which would end public education as the country had known it for generations…

“Friedman may have been an accomplished number-cruncher, but when it came to social issues, he was a crackpot,” said Carol Corbett Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education. He claimed that “vouchers ‘would solve all of the critical problems’ faced by schools,” from discipline, to busing to segregation, Burris continued. “He presented no evidence, just claims based on his disdain for any government regulation….”

By 1980, Friedman was declaring that vouchers were merely a useful waypoint on the road to true education freedom, which would include revoking compulsory education laws. In 2006, shortly before his death, Friedman told an ALEC audience that it would be “ideal” to “abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

For Heritage to use Friedman as its ideological lodestar, public education advocates observe, makes clear what the report values most in the state education systems it’s ranking….

“The fact that the Heritage Foundation ranks Arizona second in the country, when our schools are funded nearly last in the nation, only underscores the depraved lens with which they view the world,” said Beth Lewis, director of the advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona, which is currently leading a citizen ballot referendumagainst the state’s new universal ESA law. “Heritage boasting about realizing Milton Friedman’s dream reveals the agenda — to abolish public schools and put every child on a voucher in segregated schools….”

“With this report,” added Burris, “the Heritage Foundation puts its values front and forward — that schooling should be a free-for-all marketplace where states spend the least possible on educating the future generation of Americans, with no regulations to preserve quality.” It’s no accident, Burris added, that Heritage’s top two states, Florida and Arizona, were ranked as the worst on the Network for Public Education’s own report card this year.

Polymath Bob Shepherd, a frequent contributor to this blog, lives in Florida. He recently received a survey from his member of Congress. He shows how deeply deceptive such a survey can be.

He writes:

I received in my email yesterday yet another transparently biased “survey” from my Flor-uh-duh Congressman Scott Franklin. It read as follows:

Do you support a Parents’ Bill of Rights to increase transparency on what children are being taught in school and how tax dollars are being spent? (yes/no)

Note that the survey DOES NOT ask,

Do you support allowing a handful of backward, provincial, undemocratic, authoritarian, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, white supremacist, Christian nationalist, fundamentalist wackjobs from among the parents in your community to decide what will be taught in your kids’ schools, what books can be in their library, who can teach, and what teachers can and cannot say? (yes/no)

These two questions are in fact equivalent.

Governor Ron DeSantis has terrorized school boards across Florida, who are afraid to endorse anything to do with racism or gender identity.

In the latest fiasco, the Miami-Dade school board censored a Pulitzer-prize winning play by a Miami author.

DeSantis is a bully and a wannabe fascist.

The story was written by Fabiola Santiago:

I told you, my fellow Cuban Americans, that the censors would get around to us, too.

And they have.

The same afternoon after the Miami-Dade School Board voted to suspend the district’s recognition of national LGBTQ History Month in October, school officials also quietly rejected — via email — the work of one of the most prominent Cuban Americans in U.S. cultural life.

Miami-Dade County Public School’s Division of Academics is refusing to allow high school students to attend — as they have in the past — Miami New Drama’s staging of Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “Anna in the Tropics.” This year’s is the 20th-anniversary presentation of the play.

Why the rejection?

The school district’s not saying.

Is it because Cruz is gay? The district would never say that outright. But after the spectacle of last week’s School Board meeting, at which members were cowed into voting down recognizing LGBTQ History Month by hostile parents and un-Christian-like religious leaders — even the Proud Boys showed up — it’s not too far a leap in logic these days.

MDCPS students have been bused to see this stellar play before. The district should tell them — and the rest of us — what’s changed.

“My work has been staged around the world — and the only place where it has been censored is in Iran,” Cruz, 62, told me in an interview from his Miami home.

Until now — when the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama, a distinction that, in 2003, also brought prestige to his hometown’s booming literary and theater scenes, appears to have become the latest victim of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture wars.

Governor Ron DeSantis wants to make sure that students are never exposed to anything in school that acknowledges the existence of people who are gay. Maybe he thinks that if their existence is never mentioned, they will disappear or go back into the closet.

The Miami-Dade School Board got his message. Last year the board approved a measure to recognize LGBTQ History Month. It was not controversial. Recently the board voted overwhelmingly to cancel that decision, in deference to state law proclaiming that gay people should not be acknowledged.

Last year, when the Miami-Dade School Board overwhelmingly supported a measure to recognize October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) History Month, some board members said their decision was rooted in another step toward civil rights for all people.

At the time, Vice Chair Steve Gallon III said he was “obligated to support the item because my DNA compels me to support inclusion. It compels me to support equity, it compels me to support equality.” 

The nine-member board passed the proposal in a 7-1 vote, with Board Member Christa Fraga dissenting and Board Member Lubby Navarro absent.

This year, though, during a marathon and contentious meeting Wednesday, the board voted 8-1 to reject recognizing October as LGBTQ month. Only Board Member Lucia Baez-Geller supported the observance; she put forth the proposal, both last year and this year.

This time, Gallon said, his personal beliefs must be divorced from his obligation to follow the law, despite his “love for all humanity, my commitment to inclusivity and access to representation.”

He expressed concern Baez-Geller’s measure “did not fully comport with the law,” referencing Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed by critics as Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill. In March, Gov. DeSantis signed the bill into law, prohibiting instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and could potentially restrict such instruction for older kids.

Gallon and seven other board members voted no on the October observance and no on allowing the district to explore teaching two landmark Supreme Court decisions impacting the LGBTQ community to 12th-grade students. To some, the board’s vote on Wednesday underscores the chilling effect the law is having on school boards in Florida.

“Nearly every board member opposing the resolution voiced their belief that the proclamation violated the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law, further evidence of the sweeping censorship of this law,” said a news release sent by Equality Florida, a civil rights organization that works with Florida’s LGBTQ community.

School board attorney Walter Harvey told the board Wednesday that he believed the measure was in compliance with the state law because it did not have changes to curriculum or instruction.

Board members, however, believed otherwise. 

Law’s potential chilling effect

Throughout the hours-long meeting Wednesday, Baez-Geller tried to debunk what she called “disinformation” being promulgated by people at the podium.

For one, she said, the item included an opt-out for students on the Supreme Court lessons in addition to language that required any recognition be pursuant to state law.

Nevertheless, speaker after speaker opposed to the measure said the recognition would indoctrinate students; in some cases, speakers likened the resolution to child abuse. 

“What I think is happening, (following) the removal of members of Broward County and the language and rhetoric from the right, it’s a scary time for allies … and people who would have voted in favor of this in the past may now be thinking twice,” she told the Herald Thursday. “The law is vague on purpose and as we saw, the law is meant to have a chilling effect, and I believe the law has been successful in scaring people away from topics that are potentially controversial or that could bring a lawsuit.”

Last month, DeSantis removed four elected Broward County School Board members following a grand jury report that cited the members for “incompetent management” and “neglect of duty.” He replaced the four members with four men — the four he suspended were all women — who had ties to him or to the Republican Party.

At the end of July, opponents to the law sued DeSantis, the Florida Board of Education and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. in federal court in Tallahassee, challenging the law’s constitutionality. The case is pending.

A packed house, polarized crowd

Most of the speakers Wednesday spoke against the measure. 

Patricia Moore was greeted with cheers from the packed auditorium after she said schools “are not here to indoctrinate with the LGBTQ agenda. We should not expose our children to this in school.”

Michael Rajner, however, was among those who spoke in favor of the measure, telling the board he knows what it’s like to have parents who told him not to tell others he was gay, including his siblings. 

“Our struggle is real. Our struggle is history,” Rajner told the board members.

Now, if DeSantis should be elected President in 2024, he could tell cable and network stations not to broadcast any programs with gay characters, and he could censor the Internet.

He is a bigot and a bully.

Robert Reich wondered out loud what many people including me have been saying. He posed it as a question. Is Ron DeSantis a fascist? He didn’t even get into the damage that DeSantis has done to teachers, driving them out with low pay, gag orders, censorship, and replacing them with veterans and first responders without experience or knowledge of teaching. He also fired five elected officials and replaced them with cronies. Four were Broward County school board members who were criticized in a state report for the Parkland school shootings, the fifth was a county prosecutor who said he would not prosecute women who sought an abortion. He is on a roll, attacking teachers and anyone he considers WOKE (i.e., concerned about racism, injustice, etc.). He is rising by making hatred his brand.

Robert Reich writes:

I like to tweet. Not as much as I like to write here on Substack where I get to share my thoughts at some length. On Twitter it’s a different kind of conversation, and pace — like speed chess.

Last Tuesday I tweeted:

Robert Reich @RBReichJust wondering if “DeSantis” is now officially a synonym for “fascist.”August 23rd 20221,626 Retweets10,490 Likes

I was surprised at the outrage my little tweet provoked.

The Washington Examiner, for example:

Ultra left-wing elitist and former secretary of labor during the Clinton administration Robert Reich tweeted earlier this week, “Just wondering if ‘DeSantis’ is now officially a synonym for ‘fascist.’” This insulting slur has no basis, of course. This is just what left-wing ideologues do when they discuss Republican politicians who pose any threat to the existence of their political ideology. It’s not grounded in any reality and is a sham. Yet, it never stops any of them from repeating the lie. Anyone the Democrats don’t like or disagree with is a fascist…. Any person using such hyperbolic, unhinged name-calling is not a serious person, and anything they say should not be deemed credible.

Fox News’s digital outlet took umbrage as did many others, with rightwing rage at my tweet ricocheting through the echo-chambers of Republican social media.

Don’t worry about me. After a half-century in and around politics, I’ve got a thick skin. But the size of the blowback on my little tweet makes me think I struck a nerve.

DeSantis has become a favorite of the GOP’s Fox News-viewing base, and the most likely rival to Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024. The Harvard and Yale educated DeSantis (what dothey teach at Harvard and Yale?) has been called “Trump with a brain.” Lately DeSantis has been campaigning on behalf of Republican election-deniers around the country, including gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and US Senate candidate JD Vance in Ohio.

DeSantis is the nation’s consummate culture warrior. Consider what he has wrought in Florida:

  • Discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity are now barred in Florida schools.
  • Math textbooks have been rejected for what Florida officials call “indoctrination.”
  • Abortions are banned in Florida after 15 weeks. (DeSantis recently suspended an elected prosecutor who said he would refuse to enforce the anti-abortion law.)
  • A new state office has been created to investigate “election crimes.”
  • Florida teachers are limited in what they can teach about racism and other tragic aspects of American history. DeSantis has got personally involved in local school board races, endorsed and campaigning for 30 board candidates who agree with him (so far, 20 have won outright, five are going to runoffs).
  • Claiming tenured professors in Florida’s public universities are “indoctrinating” students, DeSantis spearheaded a law requiring them to be reviewed every five years.
  • Florida’s Medicaid regulator is considering a rule to block state-subsidized health care from paying for treatments of transgender people. Florida’s medical board recently began the process of banning gender-affirming medical treatment for youths.
  • Disney (Florida’s largest employer) has been stripped of the ability to govern itself for the first time in more than half a century, in retaliation for the company’s opposition to the crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. conversations with schoolchildren.
  • Florida’s congressional map has been redrawn to give Republicans an even bigger advantage.

How much of a reactionary bully is DeSantis? Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a smattering of some of his pearls of (dare I say, fascist) rhetoric: “We are not going to surrender to woke,” DeSantis said last Tuesday. “Florida is the state where woke goes to die.” He has described an America under assault by left-wing elites, who “want to delegitimize our founding institutions.” DeSantis envisions his job as governor as fighting critical race theory, “Faucian dystopia,” uncontrolled immigration, Big Tech, “left-wing oligarchs,” “Soros-funded prosecutors,” transgender athletes, and the “corporate media.” The state of Florida, DeSantis says, has become a “citadel of freedom.” He charges — using a standard racist dog whistle — that “We’re not letting Florida cities burn down … In Florida, you’re not going to get a slap on the wrist. You are getting the inside of a jail cell.”

So, back to my tweet: Is it useful to characterize DeSantis’s combination of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny, along with his efforts to control the public schools and universities and to intimidate the private sector (e.g., Disney), as redolent of fascism?

America’s mainstream media is by now comfortable talking and writing about “authoritarianism.” Maybe it should also begin using the term “fascism,” where appropriate. (Even Joe Biden, who has never been known as a rhetorical bomb-thrower, last Thursday accused the GOP of “semi-fascism.” A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee called Biden’s comment “despicable.”)

Authoritarianism implies the absence of democracy, a dictatorship. Fascism (the word comes from the Latin fasces, denoting a tightly-bound bundle of wooden rods that typically included a protruding axe blade, adopted by Benito Mussolini in the 1930s to symbolize his total power) is different from mere authoritarianism. Fascism also includes hatred of “them” (people considered different by race or religion, or outside the mainstream, or who were born abroad), control over what people learn and what books they are allowed to read, control over what had been independent government units (school boards, medical boards, universities, and so on), control over women and the most intimate and difficult decisions they’ll ever make, and demands that the private sector support the regime.

Perhaps my “just wondering” tweet about DeSantis hit the nerve of the fascism now taking root in the Republican Party?

Or is DeSantis’s own nascent presidential campaign behind the outsized reaction to my tweet? After all, if you’re seeking a presidential nomination in today’s GOP, there’s nothing like an accusation of fascism to rally Trump supporters. It might be a particularly useful strategy if your primary opponent in 2024 will be Trump.

What do you think?

Sarasota, where DeSantis candidates won the school board, is a very conservative district.

Polk County went for Trump in the past; 52% of its voters are Republicans. But Ron DeSantis’ conservative slate lost.

Billy Townsend explains the surprising outcome.

And he concludes that if DeSantis can’t win Polk County, he’s in trouble.

To recap: Chief crank Ron DeSantis and his Polk GOP hench-cranks succeeded completely in making the Polk School Board elections partisan. In doing so, they lost basically every geographical engine of growth, commerce, creativity, and civic life in Polk County. And they added some functional chunk of Republican primary voters to the generic Polk County Democratic political coalition, at least for a night. Well played, GOP.

A slate of rightwing extremists won control of the Sarasota school board. A group of Proud Boys celebrated with the winners. The right-wingers were endorsed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis endorsed 29 candidates in school board races, 25 of them won. They share his goals of banning teaching about racism and gender identity.

VICE News wrote:

A trio of “anti-woke” GOP candidates claimed victory in elections for the Sarasota school board this week, boosted by endorsements from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and support from a far-right group founded by members of the Proud Boys.

During celebrations on Tuesday night, two of the newly-elected board members were photographed at the official victory party with two of the Proud Boys, one of whom posed flashing the OK sign, a known white-power dog whistle….

Ziegler and Marinelli did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment on their links to the Proud Boys, but Sarasota Watchdogs, which Hoel and Radovich co-founded, denied the sign was racist.

“We are simply grass-root volunteers that pushed for a change from the tyrannical liberal school board,” the group told VICE News in a Facebook message.

As a result of the clean sweep on Tuesday night, the school board in Sarasota has gone from having a 3-2 liberal majority to having a 4-1 conservative majority. And Sarasota is not an outlier: It’s one of five school boards in Florida that flipped to conservative control this week. Another of those was the Miami-Dade school board, which is now the nation’s largest school district to be overseen by elected conservatives

As well as securing the backing of the Proud Boys and DeSantis, the candidates were supported financially by rightwing activist groups like Moms for Liberty and the 1776 Project PAC, which says it is “dedicated to electing school board members committed to abolishing CRT from the public school curriculum.”

Like many GOP candidates standing for school board positions this term, the ZEM candidates have focused their campaigns on hot-button GOP issues like critical race theory and anti-trans ideology.

Rolling Stone wrote that the school board races were a huge victory for DeSantis, who is ready to run for president if Trump steps aside.

DeSantis has made his mark on the national stage with his “parental rights” agenda that rejected Covid lockdowns, banned classroom discussions of systemic racism, and curbed lessons on sexuality in schools with the passage of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The school board candidates he backed for Tuesday’s elections are all proud evangelists of his cultural crusade against any and all means of “wokeness” — a crusade detractors warn unfairly targets LBGTQ students and students of color.

“Parental rights” are to Ron DeSantis what election conspiracies are to Donald Trump: A signature issue reshaping his party. Tuesday’s races were the proving ground for Desantis’ shadow 2024 pitch, with results that showed some promise, if not conclusively so: 16 candidates won outright, while eight advanced to a runoff. As the national media focuses on the win-loss record of Trump-backed candidates, DeSantis has his own. And where Trump’s hand-picked winners are a harbinger of his continued potency among Republicans, DeSantis’ signify something else altogether: His ability to both grow and draft off of a movement.

To enter the Sarasota shriners’ hall on Sunday afternoon was to time travel to a not-so-distant future — one in which Ronald Dion DeSantis is running for president, should Trump allow it. Navy-colored DeSantis caps outnumbered Trump’s signature red ones, and the governor upped the score by tossing more with autographed bills from the stage. Some in the crowd promoted a decidedly DeSantis-focused strain of MAGAism: “Make America Florida,” their T-shirts read.

The “MAF” faithful listened, spellbound in a thick heat, as their governor railed against “woke” for nearly an hour. He warned that woke teachers “will change their [children’s] gender behind the parents’ backs” unless stopped by his agenda. He condemned woke school board candidates for “running on injecting sexuality into elementary school.” He said the line “educate, not indoctrinate” twice, both times to rapturous applause…

The rally in Sarasota was part of DeSantis’ four-stop sprint across the state to give his school board candidates a last-minute boost. It drew out the coalition they’d need to win: The mother of two who homeschools her children because, as she told me, “a lot of what’s going on is very scary — the school shootings, they’re getting the LBGTQ shoved down their throats.” The grandmother who confessed that she is “so concerned about our children being affected by pedophilia in the schools.” The high school teacher who praised how Sarasota interpreted the “Don’t Say Gay” bill’s parental consent requirements: “If my 10-year-old son wants to be called ‘Stephanie,’ I’d want to know,” she said.

DeSantis is a demagogue who figured out that the route to power is eased by attacking Blacks, denouncing those who teach the factual history of racism, and scaring the public about LGBT people. It’s fertile ground, he finds, to accuse teachers and liberals of being pedophiles who want to “groom” children and turn them gay or transgender.

Florida has a serious teacher shortage, and DeSantis wants to hire veterans and first responders, regardless of their lack of training or education or experience. DeSantis has no intention of improving education. He will demagogue the issues and demonize minorities and ride that program as far as it will take him.

Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, will choose Karla Hernandez-Mats as his running mate, according to the Miami Herald. She is the president of the Miami-Dade teachers’ union. She is also a wonderful person. She is articulate and super-smart. I met her in Miami in February 2020 when I had an event to promote Slaying Goliath at Miami’s famous bookstore “Books & Books.” Karla interviewed me, and she was terrific.

Help Charlie Crist and Karla Hernandez-Mats defeat DeSantis, the man who censors books, bans discussions of racism and gender, opposes women’s right to an abortion, and wants to destroy public schools in Florida.

Help Florida join the 21st century!

Charlie Crist, the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor, has selected the head of Miami-Dade County’s teachers union as his running mate to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall, the Miami Herald has confirmed. Three sources briefed on Crist’s decision confirmed the choice of Karla Hernandez-Mats, which was first reported by CBSMiami. The Crist campaign declined to confirm the news. An announcement is expected Saturday.

Read more at:

Remember when Republicans believed in local control of schools? Those days are over, at least in Florida (and in other states where billionaires and Wall Street titans pour money into school board races to advance privatization).

In Florida, Governor DeSantis has endorsed candidates in more than two dozen local school board elections who are as irresponsible as he is. He can’t bear the possibility that anyone disagrees with him.

He is endorsing candidates who opposed any mask mandates, defying the advice of doctors, scientists, and the CDC.

DORAL, Florida — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is working to line up a slew of loyalists on school boards across Florida as he seeks a second term in the nation’s third-largest state.

“We need help at the local level,” DeSantis said at a firefighters building before 430 enthusiastic supporters during a campaign event on Sunday. “You guys with your power going out and voting is going to make a huge difference.”

The governor has endorsed 29 conservative candidates ahead of Tuesday’s election for school board races, which typically don’t receive much attention and are technically nonpartisan.

School board members make decisions about spending, schedules, supplies, curriculum, and other matters. But in more than a dozen counties where DeSantis endorsed candidates, school boards defied the governor last fall by obligating students to wear masks.

What we know about DeSantis. He is shrewd. He plays to basic racism, homophobia, and the most extreme rightwing tendencies of voters. He is a bully.