Florida students rally against DeSantis education agenda

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Students join a statewide student walkout to protest Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education policies at the University of South Florida in Tampa on Thursday, February 23, 2023.
Students join a statewide student walkout to protest Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education policies at the University of South Florida in Tampa on Thursday, February 23, 2023. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 24

The big story: As Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Republican lawmakers amp up their efforts to alter Florida’s education landscape, the students who benefit from the targeted schools and universities are seeking a voice in the matter.

On Thursday, hundreds walked away from their classes to signal their displeasure.

They rallied against the government’s push to eliminate diversity programs, restrict lessons about race and gender, and a host of other policy objectives the government has pursued.

“We’re not just students yelling at the wind,” University of South Florida student organizer Ben Braver said. “We have come with the start of a solution.”

Newly appointed New College trustee Christopher Rufo, a national conservative provocateur who made a name demonizing the term “critical race theory,” mocked the protests as small and not reflective of most students’ reality. More from USA Today, ABC News, Miami Herald.

Meanwhile, a state House member filed legislation to implement many of the changes to state university operations that DeSantis has called for. Provisions of HB 999 include allowing a faculty member’s tenure to be reviewed “at any time,” and removing majors or minors in subjects like critical race theory and gender studies.

Hot topics

Vouchers: Florida lawmakers unveiled their cost estimate to offer school vouchers and education savings accounts to all school-aged Floridians. It differed by hundreds of millions from independent outside projections. More from the Tallahassee Democrat.

Gender issues: A Flagler County School Board member demanded a sign announcing a “safe space” for LGBTQ students be removed from a high school classroom, Flagler Live reports. • Utah is the latest state to have lawmakers file legislation similar to Florida’s law limiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Race lessons: Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized national media outlets that accused him of attempting to have Black history removed from Florida schools, saying he is attempting to get rid of “woke” lessons only, Fox News reports. • At least seven other states have taken a stance on the College Board’s AP African American studies course after Florida barred its use, Education Week reports.

Board elections: A state lawmaker filed legislation to reduce school board term limits to eight years, also adding county commissioners to the list, Florida Politics reports.

Other school news

Volusia County schools are looking for businesses to fill out its adopt-a-school program. The local hospitality industry is aiming to find those partners, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

The Orange County school district says it has a growing student behavior problem. It convened a task force of school, community and parent members to seek solutions, WKMG reports.

The FHSAA rejected a proposal to collect data about high school student-athletes’ menstrual cycles. Requiring students to answer such questions might have run afoul of federal law, The Conversation reports.

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