When it comes to legislative fights, few lawmakers find themselves in the middle of the action as frequently as Rep. Randy Fine.
The Palm Bay Republican this year expects additional conversations about critical race theory, school board authority on public health and how local governments spend revenues.
Battles about public education keep Fine in the headlines most often. And with Gov. Ron DeSantis promising action such as the Stop WOKE Act, which would bar critical race theory in higher education and allow grade school parents to sue should the topic arise in school, Fine will again be on the front lines.
“We’re going to take a pretty hard stance against critical race theory,” he said. “We need to. It is a problem. We’ve exposed the leftist leftism that’s been in our school systems for years — for decades, frankly — and now that we all know about the problem, it’s our obligation to stamp it out.”
Of course, many education professionals take issue with such statements. Critical race theory has been an analytical lens used for decades to study the effects of institutional racism on society, and many say it’s not a topic explored until students enter college. So does banning the subject stop anything but critical analysis of history and sociology?
Fine maintains it’s the critics who get it wrong, often intentionally. He doesn’t want to eliminate any discussion of race.
“Ideology has no place in the classroom, but history does,” he said. “We need to very aggressively work to stop the dumbing down of America as the left tries to equate history and ideology in the same sentence.”
For example, Fine said it’s important for students to learn about the cardinal sin of the founding of America: allowing slavery.
“In the Constitution, the greatest governing document in history, it says Black people only count as three-fifths of a person. I suspect most Americans don’t know that, and they should,” Fine said. “But they should also learn America fought its bloodiest war in order to correct that cardinal sin. The Civil War was fought to correct that mistake.”
Fine has also fought very publicly with the Brevard County School Board against mask mandates in schools and expects further action on that front. As Chair of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, he holds significant clout in that arena.
He also hopes to further expand school choice.
“We need to make it easier to escape a government-run school system,” he said.
And fights about who controls local government purse strings won’t stop with schools.
“I have a bill that would eliminate the ability of local governments to skim enterprise funds for general revenue,” he said.
Basically, if a government collects money to run its own sewer system, that money must be used for the sewer system and not to pad the park fund.
He also played a key role in approving a Gaming Compact that later ended up tossed in court. But he doesn’t know if lawmakers can yet amend the arrangement with the Seminole Tribe, largely because rulings are being appealed.
“To some degree, there is a desire to let the compact work its way through courts before we decide what we have to do,” Fine said. “Don’t borrow trouble.”