DeSantis defunds diversity at Florida colleges, universities

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs legislation on Monday, May 15, 2023, banning state funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at Florida's public universities, at New College of Florida in Sarasota.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs legislation on Monday, May 15, 2023, banning state funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at Florida's public universities, at New College of Florida in Sarasota. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 16, 2023

The big story: Saying he wants to bring more regulation to Florida’s higher education system, Gov. Ron DeSantis headed to New College of Florida to sign bills placing new requirements on what can be taught and said at the state’s colleges and universities.

He was greeted by protesters who criticized efforts to restrict lessons about race and gender, as well as plans to limit faculty tenure protections and prohibit spending of state funds on diversity and equity initiatives.

“It’s our view that, when the taxpayers are funding these institutions, that we as Floridians and we as taxpayers have every right to insist that they are following a mission that is consistent with the best interest of our people in our state,” DeSantis said.

A flurry of statements from opponents soon followed, suggesting the laws are unconstitutional. Read more here.

While at the event, New College interim president Richard Corcoran announced plans for a core curriculum at the school that would connect liberal arts with technology, Florida Politics reports.

The bill signings are part of Florida’s larger effort to remake public education following a Republican playbook, USA Today reports. Here are five bills lawmakers passed in their spring session toward that end, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Hot topics

Dress code: Some Pasco County school board members say they don’t want to see students’ midriffs any more. They’ve proposed a new rule to require students’ shirts extend to their pants waist.

Book challenges: The Nassau County school district expanded its rules to allow any county resident to file objections to books and other materials in the schools, Florida Politics reports. • The Osceola County chapter of Citizens Defending Freedom, a conservative organization, is pushing to remove the graphic novel series “Assassination Classroom” from district schools, WOFL reports.

Mental health: Florida schools are in line to receive more federal funding to hire additional mental health professionals, WMFE reports.

Board politics: Brevard County school board member Jennifer Jenkins, an outspoken liberal in a conservative community, said she’s considering a run for U.S. Senate, Florida Phoenix reports.

Superintendents: The Manatee County school board is expected to select its next superintendent from among three finalists today, WWSB reports.

Sex discrimination: While most Florida school districts did not file any Title IX reports between 2012 and 2021, the Lee County district stood out as an exception, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. The paper has published a Title IX project that is available to subscribers.

Other school news

R.I.P. Longtime Pasco school board attorney Dennis Alfonso died after a battle with cancer. • A beloved Seminole County high school music instructor died over the weekend, WKMG reports.

Former Alachua County superintendent Carlee Simon, ousted by a board backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has landed on her feet. She’s been named interim dean of education at the University of Alaska Southeast, KINY reports.

Florida Gulf Coast University trustees narrowly selected a new president. They then suggested she receive a truncated contract, the News Service of Florida reports.

Social media never really disappears. An Osceola County charter school teacher was fired after students found “disturbing” TikTok videos he had posted in 2021, WFTV reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

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