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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

DeSantis signs a bill placing restrictions on teacher-training programs

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Family Leader's Thanksgiving Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall
/
AP
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Family Leader's Thanksgiving Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed bills that include seeking to prevent "indoctrination" in teacher-training programs and beginning to allow credit unions to hold state money.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed bills that include seeking to prevent “indoctrination” in teacher-training programs and beginning to allow credit unions to hold state money.

The teacher-training bill (HB 1291) was one of the most-controversial education issues of this year’s legislative session, which ended March 8. It seeks to prevent “identity politics” from being included in teacher-preparation programs at colleges and universities.

DeSantis said the measure, which will take effect July 1, “prohibits the indoctrination” of prospective teachers.

“The Legislature on this looked at it and said, ‘We don't want these teacher-preparation programs to become captive to some political agenda,’” DeSantis said during a bill-signing event at the VyStar Tower in Jacksonville.

Earlier, DeSantis posted on the X social-media platform that the legislation will protect “Floridians from the Agenda of the Global Elites.”

But the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement Thursday criticizing the bill, describing it as an “effort to silence educational programs that teach empathy and respect for all.”

“There is no greater threat to our democracy than efforts to scare Floridians out of exercising their right to free speech and to have open and honest discussions about the role racism and oppression played in the history of our country,” Sam Boyd, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in the statement. “Courts have already ruled that laws like these, which seek to impose censorship on higher education, are unconstitutional. This law is no different.”

Under the bill, teacher-preparation programs cannot “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum or instruction that teaches identity politics.” The bill includes ties to a 2022 law that restricts the way various race-related concepts can be taught in schools —a law that DeSantis dubbed the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees”, or Stop WOKE Act.

This year’s measure seeks to prevent teacher-preparation programs from being “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.”

The bill also will apply to programs that prepare school leaders such as principals for their roles.

“There is no greater threat to our democracy than efforts to scare Floridians out of exercising their right to free speech and to have open and honest discussions about the role racism and oppression played in the history of our country.”
Sam Boyd

During legislative debates, supporters and opponents disagreed about whether the bill was designed to keep indoctrination out of classrooms or to prevent educators from teaching accurate history.

“HB 1291 will infringe upon freedom of speech and continue to keep Floridians uneducated and keep them from having honest discussions about our country’s past,” Kara Gross, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said in a statement March 6, the day the bill received final passage. “This is a blatant effort by certain lawmakers to limit discussions and censor viewpoints that they do not agree with.”

DeSantis on Thursday also signed a bill (HB 989) that included priorities of state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, including allowing state funds to be deposited in credit unions. In the past, only banks have been eligible.

Credit unions and banks have waged lobbying battles in recent years about the issue, which involves being designated as what is known as a qualified public depository. The House voted 49-45 on the next-to-last day of the legislative session to approve an amendment allowing credit unions to receive deposits. The Senate gave final approval to the bill on the last day of the session.

The bill also seeks to prevent financial institutions from discriminating in providing services based on such things as customers’ political opinions or speech. The measure also will allow Patronis to hire a “tax liaison” to handle calls by Floridians involving the federal Internal Revenue Service.