DeSantis wants civics education boosted
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis arrives at Top of The World in Ocala, Florida, Friday, March 5, 2021, to give an update on COVID vaccinations. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent] 2021
Relying on federal coronavirus relief funds for schools, 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 on 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.
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.
Teacher union dues deductions at issue
After teachers and union officials lined up to oppose the bill, a Senate committee Wednesday approved a proposal that would place a series of new restrictions on education unions.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 3-2 to approve the measure (SB 1014), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. The bill, in part, would prevent school boards from deducting union dues from teacher paychecks.
“This is basically what is known as paycheck protection,” Baxley said.
But educators and union leaders from across the state testified against the bill, with some pointing to the role that teachers have played during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rich Templin, a lobbyist for the Florida AFL-CIO, called the bill “nothing but an attack on people we have been calling heroes for a year.”
The bill would not apply to other types of public unions, such as unions that represent law-enforcement officers, firefighters and rank-and-file state workers. The measure was supported by three Republican senators who were present for the meeting and was opposed by two Democrats.