ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis is beefing up his new civics initiative in Florida schools by pumping $106 million into education and extracurriculars surrounding the subject.
To help strengthen the curriculum and prioritize it during the upcoming school year, he’s allocated $65 million toward a new professional credential for educators.
He signed three educational bills last month to make the curriculum law at the high school and university levels. To help roll out the curriculum, DeSantis announced the Florida Civics Seal of Excellence during a news conference in Orlando on Tuesday. As he addressed students and educators at BridgePrep Academy of Orange, he explained teachers who obtain the seal will get a $3,000 bonus from the state but did not say what that training would entail.
“The Department of Education has created this plan and we’re going to be able to get moving on this. We believe that once the curriculum is finalized that we’re going to be able, during this school year, to start awarding these bonuses,” the governor said at the charter school.
The certification is not only for civics teachers but for anyone who wants one, according to the governor. He said the new education initiative will also have $16.5 million for additional training, development and classroom support for educators and principals seeking to elevate civics knowledge within their school.
This announcement comes after a contentious few months in which the Florida Board of Education outlawed critical race theory from being taught in schools, following a similar move made by several states.
Critical race theory is a theoretical perspective and practice for examining the role of race and racism in society, according to race scholar and University of Central Florida assistant sociology professor Dr. Jonathan Cox.
The perspective is often applied when studying law or American history, however, the theory was not taught in primary or secondary schools in Florida. The state’s ban prevents the topic from ever being added to the curriculum.
“Florida civics curriculum will incorporate foundational concepts with the best materials and it will expressly exclude unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory and other unsubstantiated theories,” DeSantis said during a March news conference.
Though DeSantis did not address critical race theory during his address in Orlando, he did emphasize the new civics program will help the younger generation “exercise the duties of citizenship.”
“It’s really significant,” he said. “These are great learning experiences that students are able to do, to be able to just stand there and have to think for yourself and someone throws something at you and you’re able to kind of go back and offer a counter.”
With this new funding, the Department of Education will also be creating regional civics coaches to help support educators who take on the task of creating civics programs. Civics programs can include speech and debate teams, volunteer initiatives, competitions and the like.
Additional funding will help bolster the state civics curriculum and expedite the implementation of Florida’s B.E.S.T. standards in the state’s public schools, which replaced Florida’s Common Core standards.
To help show students the importance of having a solid foundation in civics, the governor called on Florida’s school districts to use the funds to explore avenues and partnerships focused on public service. He said $6.5 million is allocated for pilot programs and career pathway programs to help set up students for future educational and professional opportunities.