Civics education overhaul lands on Governor’s desk

Civics curriculum in Florida will receive an overhaul if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs two bills now sitting on his desk.

DeSantis has said he wants more civics education for Florida students. He already rolled out the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative in March at a press conference in Naples. That program will, according to DeSantis, make Florida “the national leader in civics education” and “get politicization out of the curriculum.”

DeSantis has made it clear in multiple press conferences and television appearances that he does not support critical race theory being a part of civics education curriculum in Florida. Critical race theory is an academic concept that seeks to examine systemic racism. DeSantis supported a measure approved by the state Board of Education stipulating that American history is to be defined “largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”

House Bill 5 goes further by requiring the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to develop or approve an integrated civics education curriculum for public school students in kindergarten through grade 12.

Under the bill, the required American Government curriculum for high schoolers would be modified to include a comparative discussion of political ideologies, “such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”

Additionally, the bill establishes the “Portraits in Patriotism Act,” which would create a video library sharing first-person accounts of people who lived under foreign governments and were “victims to other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.”

Senate Bill 146 would create a high school civics option for school districts to include a nonpartisan civic literacy project through U.S. government classes. That project would require students to identify an issue or problem in the community, research the problem, and develop strategies to address it.

The bill would give students the opportunity to supplement U.S. government education through community service and real-life problem solving.

DeSantis directed the Commissioner of Education, in January 2019, to review Florida’s K-12 academic standards and identify opportunities in civics education, with an emphasis on the United States Constitution.

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