DeSantis releases plans for civics education in Florida

Relying on federal coronavirus relief funds for schools, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing to spend $106 million to bolster civics education, including offering bonuses to teachers who complete training.

During a news conference Wednesday in Naples, DeSantis announced what he’s calling the "Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative." Part of the plan would direct the Florida Department of Education to create the Florida Civics Seal of Excellence, a licensure endorsement for educators.

"Under this initiative, the department will partner with national leaders in civics professional development to provide a series of modules and micro-credentials that any Florida teacher will be eligible to attain," DeSantis said.

Teachers who complete the civics training would receive a $3,000 bonus under the governor's plan. The initiative would also include $16.5 million to create training programs for principals and educators "seeking to elevate civics education in Florida schools" and $17 million to strengthen the state’s civics curriculum.

However, DeSantis said the curriculum would not include critical race theory, an academic movement that examines the way race and racism influence politics, culture and the law.

According to Purdue University, critical race theory scholarship shows how racism continues to be persuasive and why it denies individuals their constitutional rights.

Last year, then-President Donald Trump, whose support was crucial for DeSantis winning the Governor's Mansion, cracked down on diversity training at federal agencies that employed critical race theory. Trump's memo came after the U.S. spent a summer reckoning over racial injustice in policing and other spheres of American life.

DeSantis wants lawmakers to take up the proposal during the ongoing legislative session.

"Understanding what our country was founded on, understanding the civic tradition, the Constitution, all these things, has become very much a lost art," DeSantis said.

Several proposals aimed at beefing up civics education are advancing in the Legislature.

A House measure (HB 5) that would direct the Department of Education to create a video library of first-hand accounts of "victims of other nations' governing philosophies" is ready for consideration by the full House.

The News Service of Florida and the Associated Press contributed to this report.