Archives for category: Florida

Florida has become a Petri dish for potential fascism. DeSantis has made war on African Americans, on gays, on transgender people, on drag queens, on public schools, on higher education, even on private corporations (Disney). He likes to stand behind signs that declare Florida is “free,” but no one is free to disagree with him. That’s not freedom.

Now DeSantis has proposed to create a military force that answers only to him. To call out the National Guard, he must get federal permission. That’s not good enough for him. He wants a Florida state guard. Some other states have them, but they are not in the hands of a would-be dictator whose vanity knows no limits.

CNN reports:

St, Petersburg, Florida (CNN) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to reestablish a World War II-era civilian military force that he, not the Pentagon, would control.

DeSantis pitched the idea Thursday as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies, like hurricanes. The Florida National Guard has also played a vital role during the pandemic in administering Covid-19 tests and distributing vaccines.

But in a nod to the growing tension between Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would be “not encumbered by the federal government.” He said this force would give him “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.” DeSantis is proposing bringing it back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and he is seeking $3.5 million from the state legislature in startup costs to train and equip them.

States have the power to create defense forces separate from the national guard, though not all of them use it. If Florida moves ahead with DeSantis’ plan to reestablish the civilian force, it would become the 23rd active state guard in the country, DeSantis’ office said in a press release, joining California, Texas and New York. These guards are little-known auxiliary forces with origins dating back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely in the power of a governor.

Will DeSantis use his state guard to break up peaceful demonstrations? Will he send it to drag shows to close them down? Will he it to harass teachers accused of being woke? The possibilities are frightening.

Two of the reddest states in the nation had the largest numbers of people signing up for Obamacare. This reflects the size of their population but also their needs. Their governors may rant against the federal government and its programs, but actions speak louder than words. The public wants what the politicians deride. Yet the public elects the people who deny their basic needs.

Florida led the way with the highest number of people in the country who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, with more than 3.2 million people enrolling, or 20 percent of the country’s totals.

A record 16.3 million people nationwide signed up for plans on the federal health insurance exchange during the open enrollment period, which began Nov. 1 and ended on Jan. 15, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported Wednesday.

In Florida, enrollment ballooned to 3.2 million, a 19% jump over last year’s open enrollment period under the health law, commonly known as Obamacare.

The 3.2 million represents 20 percent of all enrollees nationwide, even though Florida, the third most populous state in the country with 22 million people, accounts for only about 7 percent of the U.S. population…

For University of Miami professor Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, an expert on the Affordable Care Act, Florida’s enrollment spike is likely an indication ofoutreach efforts, a lack of jobs that provide health coverage, and that Florida is one of 11 states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

About 425,000 adults in Florida don’t have health insurance because they are too poor to qualify for coverage under the ACA and the state hasn’t expanded Medicaid, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. More than half of those adults are Hispanic or Black.

“It shows that there’s a major need for health insurance in our state,” said Carrasquillo, who serves as UM’s dean for Clinical and Translational Research and is also co-director of the Clinical Translational Science Institute.

Almost a million Floridians could lose their Medicaid coverage starting in April once the federal COVID-19 emergency comes to an end, and because Florida didn’t expand its Medicaid eligibility.

Floridians fall into this coverage gap because their incomes fall above the state’s eligibility for Medicaid but below the federal poverty line, making them ineligible for Medicaid, a health insurance program run jointly by the federal government and states.

They would also be ineligible for coverage within the Affordable Care Act marketplace. To qualify for Medicaid in Florida, parents must earn less than 31 percent of the federal poverty line, or less than $6,807 for a family of three, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates.

Texas has the second-highest enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans among states that used the federal marketplace, with 2.4 million enrollees, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/health-care/article271638107.html#storylink=cpy

Dan Rather and Elliott Kirschner write a blog called Steady. Their voice is always thoughtful, reasonable, informed, and…steady. I think that they, like me, are old enough to remember when we believed that overt racism was ebbing and that white supremacy was dead. Our hopes have been shattered since 2016. It takes the use of critical race theory to understand why we were so naive. Here is their take on the big Education story of the day:

Photo credit: Octavio Jones

Editor’s note: this is an ironic banner in front of DeSantis. Florida is not free for those who don’t share his ideology. If you think racism exists today in Florida, you are not free to discuss it in school or college. You are free to agree with him.

Rather and Kirschner write:

Much of American history is entangled with racism and white supremacy. That is the reality of our beloved nation, no matter how much we wish it were not.

As we sit here nearly a quarter of the way through the 21st century, it is obvious that we need to have the maturity to look back to our past as well as ahead to the future. Can we do this with our eyes wide open? Will we study and learn from the lessons of history?

You can’t grapple with the truth if you hide it from view. Yes, our national narrative is an inspiring one — of freedom, rights, and new opportunities. But it is also a narrative of pain — of the bondage, rape, and murder of enslaved people. It is a story of mass death, broken treaties, and land stolen from Native people. And it is a story of persecution of the “other,” time and again.

The chasm between the noble promises of our founding documents and our historical realities continues to obstruct our national journey toward a more perfect union.

Yes, ours is a country that has facilitated exploration, innovation, and growth, but it is also one built upon families torn apart at the auction block, bodies whipped, and police dogs and fire hoses set against children.

Cities were redlined. Public schools were segregated. And despite our carefully cultivated national image as a meritocracy, throughout our history we have seen talent overlooked and our common humanity diminished on account of people’s race, religion, and sexual orientation.

The ripples of injustice continue to destabilize our society.

It shouldn’t be controversial to say any of this. But acknowledging these truths today is a political act, because it threatens the privileged narratives of those who seek to sugarcoat our past. These are men and women who serve their own ambitions by fortifying their cynical holds on power, delighting in division, feeding off fear, and applauding anger.

And that brings us to Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis.

Listing all of his efforts to leverage the power of his office to attack equity, empathy, and justice would stretch this post immeasurably. But doing so would also jeopardize the central point: DeSantis is an opportunist. He is not weighing the merits of any one campaign. Rather, he wants headlines as a culture warrior standing up to “wokeness,” a term he has eagerly redefined to suit his own purposes. It allows him to sneer at and dismiss any attempt to reckon with American injustice.

DeSantis has focused his assaults on two of our society’s most traditionally marginalized groups: Black Americans and the LGBTQ community. While these populations have thus far felt the brunt of his targeting, we need to see clearly that his rhetoric is a threat to all who care about a democratic, peaceful, empathetic, and just America. Those of us with the greatest privilege should bear a special burden in rejecting this hate.

DeSantis’s pugilism has enabled him to consolidate power in Florida. Any opposition to his toxic initiatives must contend with the uncomfortable truth that voters validated his message and style via his landslide win in November. Now DeSantis thinks he can take his show on the road with a presidential bid. That remains to be seen. Florida has been trending Republican in recent years, and success there might not translate to the current battleground states, many of which saw big Democratic wins in the midterms.

All that being said, there is a great danger to framing this struggle primarily through the lens of electoral politics. This normalizes a discourse that should be rejected by society’s mainstream. Just as the outright bigotry of the past became socially unacceptable, so too should these latest attempts at divisiveness.

It should not surprise us that DeSantis is making schools — both K-12 and college — a central target. He wants to teach a distorted view of America. He wants to make dissenting speech not only suspect but even criminal. He wants to silence the voices of his critics and of critical thinking more generally. This is a playbook that has been followed by demagogues before to very dangerous ends.

It is essential that DeSantis not be covered by the press through a false equivalence paradigm. We can debate what we should teach and how to teach it. But we can’t replace the truth, as unsavory as it may be, with sanitized narratives that suit those already in power. This is a battle for the minds of the voters of the future. This is about what kind of nation we will become.

But DeSantis primarily cares about what kind of country we are now. He wants to appeal to fear because he thinks he can mine that fear for votes. That is his game plan. And he’s not hiding it. There can be no appeasement. DeSantis has already shown that he isn’t interested in deliberations or good faith compromise. Those would disrupt his approach of means to an end.

History illustrates that hatred can be taught, but so can empathy and justice. We are on a winding journey as a nation. And we have much farther to go. But we have made progress in the face of bigots and autocrats because people had the courage to forge the inequities of our past into a more equitable future.

This history, this truth, is what scares people like DeSantis the most. But it is one that can give us hope if we are determined not to look away.

I wrote today’s 9 a.m. post about the College Board capitulating to conservative critics. I wrote it without seeing the revised curriculum because I was in an airplane all day. Late last night, I opened an email and discovered that Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times had written a similar but more informative column, because he was able to do the comparison that I had not done. He pointed out that the rightwing attacks on the AP African American Studies course began in September, and the very names and topics that the right and DeSantis had condemned were either excised or made optional in the revised course.

He wrote:

One might have expected a leading national educational institution to have the gumption to push back against right-wingers like Florida Gov. RonDeSantis when they try to stick their noses into decisions about how to teach important subjects.

Sadly, no.

On Wednesday, the College Board issued its final curriculum for what should have been a ground-breaking high school course in African American studies. The College Board called the course “an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.”

The final curriculum appears suspiciously to have been tailored to objections raised by DeSantis, Florida’s culture warrior Republican governor, and other right-wingers, after the board issued a draft version in December.

DeSantis, through his secretary of Education, called the draft “inexplicably contrary to Florida law” and forbade its use in Florida schools. The state’s education secretary, Manny Diaz Jr., attacked it for being “filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law.”

The arch-conservative National Review labeled the course part of “a new and sweeping effort to infuse leftist radicalism into America’s K–12 curriculum.”

The curriculum is part of College Board’s Advanced Placement program, which gives college-bound high schoolers exposure to university-level coursework.

The board says AP courses are “aimed at enabling students to develop as independent thinkers and to draw their own conclusions.”

To be fair, the board’s actions related to the African American Studies course are as good a workshop in allowing students to draw their own conclusions as one might hope. Any reasonably bright AP student is likely to see this affair as a demonstration of abject cowardice.

Disgustingly, the College Board released the final curriculum on the first day of Black History Month, as though trawling for praise for its unflinching devotion to truth. The board took pains to deny that the alterations in the draft curriculum had anything to do with criticism from DeSantis, the National Review or the right wing generally.

“No states or districts have seen the official framework that is released, much less provided feedback on it,” the board said. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.”

Raise your hand if you believe the College Board. Me neither.

The board said the final version had been completed in December. DeSantis issued his rejection of the course on Jan. 19. But criticism of the course outline had been circulating in conservative quarters for months — the National Review’s attack, for instance, was published on Sept. 12.

A preliminary, unflinching examination of the differences between the draft and the final version can only raise suspicions that the College Board refashioned the African American studies course to assuage the conservatives.

State Senator Manny Diaz Jr. posted a tweet on January 20 listing the state’s concerns about the AP course.

As a template, let’s use the list of “concerns” issued by Diaz on Jan. 20.

Diaz complained about the inclusion in the draft curriculum of writers and social activists Kimberlé Crenshaw, Angela Davis, Roderick Ferguson, Leslie Kay Jones, bell hooks , and Robin D.G. Kelley. Every single one of them has been excised from the final version.

Diaz’s list objected to the treatment, or even inclusion, of topics including the reparation debate, movements such as Black Lives Matter, Black Queer studies and “intersectionality,” which places racism and discrimination in a broadly social context.

Those topics have all been downgraded from required topics to “sample project topics” — that is, optional topics that fall outside requirements and won’t appear on the AP test. Those topics, the curriculum says, “can be refined by states and districts.”

Here’s a safe bet: None of them will be taught in Florida schools.

DeSantis has made no secret of his determination to turn Florida education into a shallow pool redolent of white supremacy by avoiding any hint that American society and politics have been infused with racism and class discrimination.

The shame of the College Board’s rewriting of its AP course is that it effectively places DeSantis and his henchmen in the position of dictating educational standards to the rest of the country.

There was scant political pushback against DeSantis when he rejected the draft curriculum, other than a letter from Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, warning the College Board that his state would “reject any curriculum modifications designed to appease extremists like the Florida Governor and his allies.”

Pritzker observed, properly, that “ignoring and censoring the accurate reporting of history will not change the realities of the country in which we live.” (Like DeSantis, Pritzker is being talked up as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.)

Now that the final curriculum has been published and its dilutions can be closely scrutinized, perhaps the scope of the College Board’s capitulation will become clearer.

But the College Board has already flunked this all-important test of character. As we’ve noted before, acts of cowardice in the face of DeSantis’ goonish bullying won’t appease him, but will only encourage him.

As he works to destroy the independence and quality of the Florida K-12 and university systems, parents elsewhere around the country can take perverse satisfaction in knowing that students will emerge from Florida schools without the skill to compete with their own kids in intelligent society.

But if institutions like the College Board continue to let DeSantis transmit his virus of ignorance beyond Florida’s borders, no one will be safe from the contagion.

When I first had a chance to read the College Board’s AP African American Studies syllabus, I predicted that the College Board was likely to beat a hasty retreat if its bottom line was jeopardized. I have not yet seen the revised edition, but the media is reporting that certain hot topics and prominent names were deleted to make the course palatable to Ron DeSantis and other conservative governors.

The New York Times reported:

After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.

The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum.

And it added something new: “Black conservatism” is now offered as an idea for a research project.

This last addition was a direct concession to criticism from the conservative National Review, which assailed the AP course as Neo-marxist indoctrination that left out the voices of African American conservative writers and scholars.

The Times’ story continues:

But the study of contemporary topics — including Black Lives Matter, incarceration, queer life and the debate over reparations — is downgraded. The subjects are no longer part of the exam, and are simply offered on a list of options for a required research project.

And even that list, in a nod to local laws, “can be refined by local states and districts.”

The expunged writers and scholars include Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia, which touts her work as “foundational in critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author who has made the case for reparations for slavery. Gone, too, is bell hooks, the writer who shaped discussions about race, feminism and class.

After the curriculum was released, Professor Crenshaw said that even if her name and others had been taken out of the curriculum because secondary sources — theorists or analysts — were being eliminated in favor of facts and lived experience, the decision sent a troubling message. “I would have made a different choice,” she said. “Even the appearance of bowing to political pressure in the context of new knowledge and ideas is something that should not be done.”

But she said she was also disappointed because she had believed the course would capitalize on a hunger of young students to learn “ways of thinking about things like police brutality, mass incarceration and continuing inequalities.”

Instead, she said, “the very same set of circumstances that presented the need for the course also created the backlash against the content that people don’t like.”

David Blight, a professor of American history at Yale University, said Wednesday that he had written an endorsement of the new curriculum, at the College Board’s request, and that he believed it had much to offer not just about history but also about Black poetry, art and the origins of the blues, jazz and hip-hop. But he withdrew his endorsement on Wednesday, after learning that some sections had been cut.

“I withdrew it because I want to know when and how they made these decisions to excise these people, because that’s also an attack on their academic freedom,” Dr. Blight said.

PEN America, a free speech organization, echoed that concern. While the College Board had said the changes were not political, the board “risked sending the message that political threats against the teaching of particular types of content can succeed in silencing that content,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America…

Dr. Gates, who was a consultant to the curriculum, said he was “sorry that the College Board’s policy is not to require secondary sources in its curricula.” He teaches Harvard’s introduction to African American studies, “and academic subjects such as ‘Intersectionality’ and critical race theory, the 1619 Project, reparations for slavery, Black homophobia and antisemitism are fair game, of course, for such a class,” he said in an email. The 1619 Project is an initiative by The New York Times.

The College Board insists it made its changes in December before DeSantis denounced the syllabus.

But the conservative attack on the syllabus began last September, when Stanley Kurtz received a leaked copy and wrote a scathing critique in The National Review called “Neo-Marxing the College Board with AP African American Studies.”

He wrote in September:

A new and sweeping effort to infuse leftist radicalism into America’s K–12 curriculum has begun. The College Board — the group that runs the SAT test and the Advanced Placement (AP) program — is pilot-testing an AP African American Studies course. While the College Board has withheld the course’s curriculum framework from the public, I have obtained a copy.

Although K–12 teachers and academic consultants working with the College Board have publicly denied that AP African American Studies (APAAS) either pushes an ideological agenda or teaches critical race theory, those denials are false. APAAS clearly proselytizes for a socialist transformation of the United States, although its socialism is heavily inflected by attention to race and ethnicity. Even if there were no laws barring such content, states and local school districts would have every right to block APAAS as antithetical to their educational goals. In any case, APAAS’s course content does run afoul of the new state laws barring CRT. To approve APAAS would be to gut those laws.

Kurtz followed with additional articles in The National Review lambasting the course as radical leftist indoctrination that violated state laws prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory. He applauded DeSantis’s attack on the course.

Although the College Board insisted that it’s revisions had nothing to do with the conservative pushback and was completely nonpolitical, Kurtz laughed:

Here’s the reality. The College Board is in a panic. Its repeated attempts to keep the APAAS curriculum secret have failed. That curriculum has now been widely published, and the teacher’s guide has been exposed here at NRO as well. My sources tell me that at least one other red state is seriously considering pulling out of the course. More red states are likely doing the same. The College Board knows that if it doesn’t stop the bleeding, the red states will be lost.

The College Board knew it had a problem months before DeSantis condemned the course. Could it take the risk of offering a course that would be rejected by red states that had already banned “critical race theory?”

The Times pointed out:

Acceptance for the new curriculum is important to the College Board, a nonprofit, because A.P. courses are a major source of revenue. The board took in more than $1 billion in program service revenue in 2019, of which more than $490 million came from “AP and Instruction,” according to its tax-exempt filing.

The College Board is a nonprofit but it pays hefty salaries. According ito Forbes, its Chief Executive Officer David Coleman (the architect of the Common Core standards) was paid $1.8 million in salary in 2018 (the last year that figures were available), and its president received more than $1 million. The company holds over $1 billion in assets.

Could they risk publishing a course that might be rejected by every red state? Maybe. But would they? Clearly, it was decided that it was easier to drop the controversial names and topics than to offend powerful conservative figures who might hurt their revenues.

Robert Hubbell writes a thoughtful, informative blog. I’m posting this as part of my personal project to understand the new face of white supremacy. White supremacy has always been there, simmering below the surface. Trump invited them to show their faces and step into the daylight. They did, and DeSantis is sending them signals that he wants to be their champion.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has set his anti-education sites on Florida’s state colleges. Through a series of political and legal maneuvers, he has ceded control over Florida’s state colleges to ultra-conservative culture warriors like Christopher Rufo. In short order, DeSantis has announced that he will rid Florida state colleges and universities of curricula not “rooted in Western tradition” or that “compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.”

Amid the torrent of reporting on Ron DeSantis’s attack on critical race theory and intersectionality, the quiet part is often left unsaid. So let me say it: DeSantis’s educational agenda is code for racism and white supremacy. (Other parts of his agenda seek to erase the dignity and humanity of LGBTQ people.) DeSantis’s invocation of “Western tradition” is meant to suppress knowledge regarding the people (and contributions) of Asia, Africa, South America, Oceania, and the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. See Talking Points Memo, DeSantis Makes 2024 Ambitions Clear As He Pours Gasoline On His ‘Woke’ Education Fire.

Given DeSantis’s generalized ignorance, his call to focus on “Western tradition” is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to the discussion of unpleasant truths about America. For example, the enslavement of Black people was a “tradition” in North America for 246 years—and the abolition of that evil practice is relatively recent (155 years ago). So, a college course that honestly addresses the Western “traditions” of North America should include an examination that the role of slavery played in the economic, social, and political development of America.

But DeSantis isn’t stopping at converting Florida’s colleges and universities into re-education camps in the worst traditions of the USSR. He is seeking to up-end centuries of “Western tradition” embodied in the Constitution and the English common law: the requirement of a unanimous jury to impose capital punishment. DeSantis has floated the idea that a less-than-unanimous jury verdict can impose a sentence of death—an unconstitutional proposal designed to inflict the death penalty on more Black and Latino Americans. See Vox, Ron DeSantis wants to make it much easier for the state to kill people.

DeSantis is willing to do all this because he wants to capture Trump’s loyal base—which is the only hope that DeSantis has of becoming a credible candidate. As Trump becomes mired in criminal prosecutions, DeSantis will become emboldened and radicalized beyond his already extremist views. Doing so ignores the lessons of the 2022 midterms: persuadable Americans are done with Trump and his MAGA extremism. Like all military generals, Ron DeSantis is fighting the last war (the presidential election of 2020) and has failed to heed the tectonic shift that occurred in the midterms.

Governor Ron DeSantis hates the fact that there is a progressive public college called New College that openly teaches diversity, equity, inclusion, feminist studies, ethnic studies, and gay studies. That’s WOKE, and he vowed to crush anything WOKE.

He named 6 conservatives to the 13-member board, and the board of the state university system added another, meaning that Rightwingers are in charge. A hard-right board needs a hard-right president, and they got one.

Their first meeting was this afternoon, and they are expected to appoint former State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran as the new president. From the following story, it appears that no one bothered to let the current president of the New College know that she was being shown the door.

DeSantis is showing how to stamp out ideas he doesn’t like, with power, not subtlety. Is he a fascist or is he pretending?

A new board of trustees at New College of Florida intends to name Richard Corcoran as its next President.

Corcoran, a former House Speaker, served as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first Education Commissioner.

Carlos Trujillo, president and founder of Continental Strategy, revealed the plans in a letter to clients and colleges.

“We are beyond excited to announce that one of our Partners, former Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, will be returning to higher education to serve as the Interim — and hopeful permanent — President of the New College of Florida, in Sarasota,” Trujillo wrote.

“This move comes as part of Gov. DeSantis ongoing work to refocus the university on providing the most value to its students and their parents.”

Corcoran was a founding partner for the consulting firm.

The news comes hours before the first board meeting since DeSantis appointed six new trustees on the 13-member board. The State University System Board of Governors also appointed a new trustee with a similar conservative think tank background.

Of note, work of Corcoran’s apparent hire comes before any news of current President Patricia Okker’s future with the school. Eddie Speir, co-founder of Inspiration Academy, wrote a blog post this weekend promising to call for Okker to be renamed as interim President and to terminate all faculty and staff before deciding who still fit in the new vision for the college.

While Florida’s Sunshine Law requires all decisions by the board to be made in publicly noticed meetings, Trujillo treats the matter like a done deal.

“The selection of Richard distinguishes our firm as a leader in innovation and strategic solutions for the clients we serve. We look forward to finding new synergies that can better serve our current clients and ensure their goals are made a reality,” his letter reads.

The Miami Herald reported today on Governor DeSantis’ plans to cleanse higher education in the state. Conservatives are creating “civics” institutes as a vehicle for patriotic indoctrination, not as a means to think critically about how to improve democracy. Censorship, which DeSantis practices, would be condemned in any genuine civics class.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced a package of major reforms to Florida’s higher education system, including tighter controls on faculty tenure, the establishment of “civics institutes” at three universities and prohibitions on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Speaking at a news conference in Bradenton, the governor unveiled a plan that would allow university boards of trustees and presidents to conduct reviews of tenured faculty members “at any time,” in addition to the periodic reviews that now take place. Regarding university presidents in particular, he proposes “reestablishing their authority over the hiring process.”

Currently, according to a flier distributed by the governor’s staff, “faculty committees can tie the hands of university presidents and bind them to only consider a small pool of recommended candidates.”

And under a heading in the flier that reads “Education not indoctrination,” he proposes changes in standards and course content “to ensure higher education is rooted in the values of liberty and western tradition.” His plan would require schools to “prioritize graduating students with degrees that lead to high-wage jobs, not degrees designed to further a political agenda.”

The proposal also would prohibit state schools from “supporting campus activities or programs that promote divisive concepts like DEI and CRT.” The letters refer to diversity, equity and inclusion programs and critical race theory.

In addition, he proposes establishing “world-class civics institutes” at the University of Florida, Florida International University and Florida State University. The institutes, according to the flier, would develop courses and curricula “that can be used to educate the next generation on the values of liberty and constitutionalism.”

The flier included information on the governor’s higher education budget proposals as well. He proposes $100 million for “recruitment and retention of highly qualified faculty at state universities” and $15 million for faculty and student recruitment at New College of Florida, where he recently appointed six conservative members to the board of trustees.

The New College board meets Tuesday for the first time since the appointments.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/article271870522.html#storylink=cpy

No freedom in Florida! The state where personal privacy goes to die! Soviet-style mind & body control! I’m guessing the purpose of this diktat is to check to make sure no trans women are competing in women’s sports. But there are worse things at stake her. Privacy. Freedom. An intrusive state, a government that counts your menstrual cycle. Gross!

#DictatorDeSantis

Now that Florida is a red state, the legislature plans to offer vouchers to every student. The legislators expect to do maximum damage to public schools, which will inexorably lose funding and students. Nothing has been said about how to pay for the proposal. Voucher schools in the state are mostly religious and are completely unregulated. Neither their principals nor their teachers need to be credentialed. They are also free to discriminate on any grounds.

The Miami Herald reports:

Florida Republican lawmakers this year will consider offering every K-12 student thousands of dollars each year for their families to spend on education.

Parents would have access to state-funded accounts and use them to pay for private school tuition plus a wide variety of school-related expenses.

The proposal, if approved, would make the state’s school voucher program bigger than ever. But one key fact about the pitch remains elusive: its cost. It could total billions of dollars.

House Speaker Paul Renner said last week he plans to make the proposal, House Bill 1, a priority during the annual legislative session, which starts March 7.

The measure is already being fast-tracked. It will have its first committee hearing Thursday morning in Tallahassee.

So far, the measure carries no financial impact statement. That’s despite the knowledge that hundreds of thousands more children would be eligible for annual payments of about $8,000 each.

The cost, according to the staff analysis, is “indeterminate.” And that “is not reasonable,” said Norín Dollard, a senior research analyst at Florida Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on quality of life issues for Floridians. The group issued a report on voucher funding in September.

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS NEW STUDENTS WOULD BE ELIGIBLE

About 266,000 Florida children attend private schools without using any current state scholarship or voucher, Dollard notes. All would be eligible for education savings accounts under the proposal. In addition, approximately 150,000 children receive home schooling.

HB 1 would provide accounts to as many as 10,000 of them in the first year, with more to come in following years. Conservative back-of-the-napkin math suggests that if just 25% of the newly eligible students participate, and those currently in the program remain, the added cost would reach $600 million, Dollard said.

As participation grows, the total could approach $4 billion or more within five years, she added. If that’s the policy decision in leadership, so be it, Dollard said. But it needs to be funded somehow.

A RECURRING FINANCIAL OBLIGATION

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, focused on that issue during a hastily called Monday evening Zoom meeting to discuss the measure with public education advocates.“

“We have very, very serious concerns,” Eskamani said during an interview. “This is an annual shift of money. Where is it coming from?”

When unveiling the measure at a news briefing, Renner said it was too early to know how much money might be needed. Much depends on how many children want to avail themselves of the vouchers, he said, and where the Legislature sets per-student funding for the year.

At the same time, Renner stressed his goal is to further open school choice so “no one is left out.” The bill would eliminate most eligibility restrictions, though it would prioritize children whose family income is at or below 185% of the federal poverty level — or $55,500 for a family of four.

It also would broaden uses of the money beyond private school tuition to include education expenses such as tutoring, testing and college courses. It would allow students to bank up to $24,000 for those uses, and further permit children already attending private schools without state support to request a share of the funds.

“To effectively deliver a quality education, policy makers and education advocates must accept that every student has unique learning needs, that education dollars belong to the student and not a system, and that public school choice offers every student an opportunity to customize their own education,” Renner said Tuesday, when asked about the associated costs.

A SPIKE IN PARTICIPATION IS EXPECTED

Dollard and others said they anticipate wide interest in participation, with much of it coming from families already paying for private schools. In Arizona, which has a similar education savings account program, the state reported 80% of applicants never attended public schools.

That flips the idea of money following the student on its head, Dollard suggested, because those students never had their education covered by state money in the first place.

School district finance officers said they understood the leadership’s position that the details aren’t firm enough to know the full financial impact.

But using the state’s most recent voucher expansion plan as a guide, they had concerns that this initiative would take money away from district budgets and leave them little ability to plan.

That’s what happened the last time the state expanded vouchers in 2021 with the taxpayer-funded Family Empowerment Scholarship. Officials touted the program as adding $200 million for vouchers, allowing 61,000 more children to afford private school.

Districts saw some money go out the door, but nothing like what happened in 2022. Halfway through the 2021-22 school year, school budget officers across the state learned that three times the amount of money they had set aside to send to voucher programs would be required, based on updated attendance figures from the state.

In some counties, such as Pasco, efforts to provide employee raises were derailed as the money officials expected to use was diverted to the vouchers. All told, the cost had grown to $1 billion.

The current year has provided similar sticker shock. The Legislature approved a budget with no specific amount set for the scholarships. By the second education funding calculation in July, the price tag had increased to $1.3 billion.

That meant the Miami-Dade County school district would have to send $225 million from its budget to the voucher program, for example, and the Hillsborough County school district would send $75 million.

When the third calculation came out this week, districts learned they would be losing even more. If the state lifts the eligibility restrictions, Pinellas County Schools chief finance officer Kevin Smith predicted, it will become even more difficult to predict the financial impact.

He suggested the state should at least consider taking the money out of the public education funding program and create a separate line item.

That way, schools would know what to expect and they could budget appropriately. In recent years, the DeSantis administration has taken the position that unexpected changes in enrollment can pose a financial strain on local school districts.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article271630112.html#storylink=cpy