Lawmakers are providing $2 million to float Portraits of Patriotism, a new education program warning students of the dangers of communism and totalitarianism.
Championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, the proposal requires the Department of Education to revamp government education, including through “Portraits in Patriotism,” a video library of first-person accounts from immigrants who lived under authoritarian regimes.
It also requires a comparative discussion of political ideologies and lessons on the “evils of communism and totalitarianism.” Portraits in Patriotism includes stories told by Floridians who fled communist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and more.
“This will show the effect that these bad policies had on people’s freedoms and livelihoods and their families,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in June. “Many of them in South Florida, for example, lost family members to communism.”
In a 2021 interview on Fox News, DeSantis and Fox News Host Laura Ingraham touted the bill as a counterpunch against critical race theory. Critical race theory is an academic concept that seeks to examine systemic racism.
Among other moves, DeSantis that year also championed legislation requiring an annual survey of students and academics. It asks students and staff about their views to ensure “intellectual freedom” and “viewpoint diversity.”
At the bill ceremony, DeSantis called colleges and universities “hotbeds of stale ideology.” Senate President Wilton Simpson in June called universities “socialism factories” at a Board of Governors meeting in St. Petersburg.
“I think it’s important that we get this in the classroom and provide an honest assessment of what this totalitarian ideology has done for the last 100-plus years,” DeSantis said.
The first survey is expected in September 2022.
Notably, Republican leaders in Arizona are seeking to create a Portraits in Patriotism of their own. The proposal (HB 2008) is similar to the Florida version. The course would become a graduation requirement if signed into law.
Both the House and Senate get millions in tax revenue to play with near the end of budget negotiations. That money is spread across different projects in what’s known in legislative parlance as the “sprinkle list.”
The House and Senate released their sprinkle lists Wednesday evening. Leaders agreed on $759 million for local projects.
The release of the list is a sign budget negotiations are wrapped and the Legislature will hit its new planned end date of Monday, March 14.