Florida higher education under fire as ‘woke’ by DeSantis, appointees

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
New College of Florida is slated to get an academic overhaul under new trustees appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
New College of Florida is slated to get an academic overhaul under new trustees appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. [ New College of Florida ]
Published Jan. 9

The big story: Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t hidden the fact that he wanted to change the direction of higher education in Florida.

The moves he made at tiny New College in Sarasota cemented his resolve.

With his staffers saying DeSantis aimed to create a Hillsdale College of the south at New College, the governor appointed several nationally known right-wing education activists to the school’s board of trustees. Among them were Hillsdale graduate school dean Matthew Spalding and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo, who led the charge to demonize the term “critical race theory” across the nation.

While the move gained praise from conservative circles, it got panned by many in academia — not to mention students and their parents who didn’t sign up for that type of education when they enrolled at New College, which tends to attract more progressive students. Read more here.

Hot topics

Attendance zones: The Hillsborough County school district’s effort to redraw its school maps to even out attendance and shutter under-used campuses has run into some serious criticism, including from some current and former board members.

Censorship concerns: A Duval County high school for the arts has canceled its performance of “Indecent,” a Tony-winning play about censorship, after officials said it included sexual content that was inappropriate for students, the Florida Times-Union reports. Paula Vogel, the play’s author, issued a statement saying she was appalled by the decision, Broadway World reports. More from Playbill.

Higher education leadership: The University of South Florida announced a lone finalist for its provost job, after rejecting a previous batch of finalists. The school said it had more candidates, but would not reveal the number or any other names. • Outgoing U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, discussed politics and education with NPR as he prepared to become the new University of Florida president. • Florida Atlantic University is looking for a new president, and most applicants are expected to remain secret from the public, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Phone service: The Citrus County school district is exploring options for leasing some of its monopoles to a cell phone service provider, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Restrooms: The Orange County school district sent letters to parents letting them know which restrooms in their schools are gender-neutral and which aren’t, WOFL reports. Some have complained the ratio isn’t fair.

Student health: A St. Lucie County family whose child died of cardiac arrest is working to get more defibrillators placed into local schools, WPTV reports.

From the court docket ... The Palm Beach County school district has asked a judge to dismiss a case contending the district violated the state “parental rights in education” law, WLRN reports.

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