The Legislature is well on its way to adding a “comparative political ideology” component to civics education for Florida students.
A civics education bill (SB 1450) passed its final Senate committee, Appropriations, Thursday with no questions or debate. Companion legislation (HB 5) already passed the House 115-0 earlier in April.
During the bill presentation, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez said the coursework would include a comparative study of political ideologies that conflict with the nation’s representative democracy.
“The curriculum will help students develop a sense of civic pride, an understanding of founding principles and the importance of defending liberty and effective public advocacy skills,” Rodriguez said during the meeting.
The legislation would require the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to develop or approve an integrated civics education curriculum for public school students in kindergarten through grade 12.
The cost of any new course work would be absorbed into existing school budgets, according to the bill’s analysis.
Under the bill, the curriculum, required within high school American Government classes, 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.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he wants more civics education for Florida students. He rolled out the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative in March at a press conference in Naples. That programs would use $116 million of federal coronavirus relief money from the CARES Act. DeSantis said the program would make Florida “the national leader in civics education” and “get politicization out of the curriculum” by avoiding education on what he described as “critical race theory.”
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 U.S. Constitution.