Joe Henderson: Ron DeSantis scores big on school tests, but what’s with the fines?

Ron DeSantis in Viera
Once he decides on something, DeSantis is unbending.

People might get whiplash from watching Gov. Ron DeSantis in action this week. The man has been busy, decisive, and, as always, he appears to have no use for anyone who might disagree with him.

Then again, there didn’t seem to be much dissent on some long-awaited news on Tuesday. The Governor basked in praise from all corners of the state as educators cheered … hey, wait a minute.

Florida’s educators cheered a Governor they’ve been at odds with since, oh, forever? You betcha!

DeSantis announced that he wants an end to the high-stakes, high-stress standardized year-end tests known as the Florida Standards Assessment.

“This is a big deal,” DeSantis said, and he is correct.

It’s also the right deal.

The tests became a regular part of the classroom curriculum under former Gov. Jeb Bush. Designed to hold teachers accountable for academically challenged students, they, instead, created incredible pressure for instructors and students alike.

Teachers and administrators complained about what they called “teaching the test,” but they had no choice. Low test scores could seriously impact their careers.

On the other hand, students could be held back if they didn’t score high enough on the tests. Anyone with anxiety about tests could find their stress level go off the charts.

DeSantis said the FSA is “quite frankly outdated.”

He proposes replacing FSA with short tests three times a year to monitor a student’s progress. That makes far greater sense than going all-in on one massive exam at the end of the school year.

The Legislature will take this up at next year’s Session. I imagine it will pass easily, likely with considerable bipartisan support. It’s a perfect election-year move for the Governor. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

As the Miami Herald noted in an editorial, “After weeks of calling out the Governor’s bullying and misguided behavior as he sought to punish school officials who enacted mask mandates, we can say we think DeSantis has the right idea here. So do teacher unions and many parents. Perhaps that’s precisely what DeSantis is looking for: a chance to prove he cares about children after trying to force them into schools that don’t require their classmates to mask up.”

Ah, but this is DeSantis, who tolerates no dissent. That brings us to another move in his busy week. Once again, he played the swashbuckler.

On Monday, he dug in deeper on his war against mask and vaccine mandates wherever they may be in the state.

He imposed a $5,000 fine for cities and counties requiring vaccines for public employees “for every single violation.”

While DeSantis was on his “personal freedom” jag about this issue, the death toll in Florida from COVID-19 closed in on 50,000 with 3.4 million infections.

It’s pointless, apparently, to say the Governor’s position defies logic. He basically says that it’s OK for someone to be squeamish about the vaccine against a highly infectious disease, even if that means infecting someone else.

That makes no sense.

Once he decides on something, though, DeSantis is unbending. Arguments against his stance on this just seem to tick him off, and it’s the same with those who agree with him on this.

So, we have overstuffed ICUs, exhausted medical workers, and overcrowded funeral homes that make victims’ families take a number.

This isn’t to say DeSantis hasn’t done good things during his term. After all, he just did one with the schools. On the issue that could define his legacy, though, he transformed into a bully who listens only to himself.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Tom

    September 17, 2021 at 7:21 am

    Really Joe?

    All this back and forth over masks. Why? Because the Governor allowed parents to make a choice on their child’s health. He didn’t say or order that school children couldn’t wear them. He didn’t say schools couldn’t advise parents, kids to wear them. Let’s be clear, the media hysteria has been purposeful over the past 8 weeks to attempt to hurt the Govs standing.

    I would suggest the Gov find a compromise on this so all parties move on. School districts have become to confrontational instead of being more concerned about educating the enrolled youth. As for the testing. Governor Ron demonstrates once again his keen in tuned “ ear
    “ on what matters. As I mentioned last week, the Governor is better served remembering the old adage, all politics is local. He shows this with monoclonal centers and his opening of 25 centers as real example. As he demonstrated with over 50 vaccine openings across the state.

    Gov Ron celebrated his birthday earlier this week. He’s the youngest chief executive in the country. He has a lot to offer but also needs to show political maturity as he grows.

    • Lorraine

      September 18, 2021 at 1:18 pm

      As a retired teacher of 33 years ->here is my day
      De S wants to give choice to parents? ? I can’t stop laughing what I joke
      The choices are basically for only 1 group to be happy -> the unmasked

      So in my opinion 1) I personally would never have put myself in a position to get Covid ( anyone feel free to teach in that climate – go for it )

      2) So by putting unmasked into a class with masked you have now taken away the rights of masked children & their parents who want and have done everything possible to keep their children safe & as far away as possible from the sneezers & coughers and basically the unmasked

      3) The only FAIR solution is NEVER to mingle these 2 groups in the same classroom – NEVER

      4) Solution #1 – separate classrooms/ eating areas / and recess times/ gyms/ art, music classes all with unmasked children & volunteer teachers , also unmasked or masked – teacher choice

      5) Solution # 2 at home schooling with on line instruction of unmasked children –

      6) Solution # 3 have all unmasked & masked in totally different schools – yes- it might be complicated at this point in time but why not if fairness is the issue

      My wild guess is that many, if not most, of the unmasked parents will scream & rant & demand & threaten because that is what they usually do and that this is right up De Santis alley – let’s not be fair to all – but rather most of his base

      That’s what I think – and I also think that he stays up at night thinking of the next horrible thing that he can do to put people in harms way

Comments are closed.


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