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

Anticommunism education could soon be mandated at all grade levels in Florida

Rear view of a teacher facing a class of older students
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A bill could require the history of communism be included in required instruction to public school students in grades K-12 beginning in the 2026-27 school year.

A bill could require the history of communism be included in required instruction to public school students in grades K-12 beginning in the 2026-2027 school year.

Republican lawmakers are trying to mandate anti-communist education in Florida schools at all ages.

The bill (HB 1349) requires that the history of communism be included in required instruction to public school students in grades K-12 beginning in the 2026-27 school year. Florida students are already taught about it in grades 7 and 9-12.

Instruction would include education about the atrocities, tactics and philosophies of foreign and domestic communist movements. The measure would launch a task force to develop the curriculum and determine what is age appropriate at all grade levels.

One of the sponsors, North Port Republican Rep. James Buchanan, said in the bill’s first committee stop that the goal of the legislation is to push back against increased favorability about communism among young Americans.

“That we are resisting the normalization of some of this theoretical conversation around the abstract of communism and making sure we are actually having a conversation around not just theocraticals but how it has played out in history,” he said.

The legislation received glowing support from Republicans. Hialeah Rep. Alex Rizo, a Cuban-American, said if students can learn about other difficult subjects, they can learn about the horrors of communist regimes.

“We do have curriculum in almost every single grade level K through 12, that talks about the sins of slavery, that talks about the horrors of the Holocaust, but does not yet really address the over 100 million people who were victimized, murdered, displaced, in about 100 years of communism in our society,” he said.

But some Democrats have opposed the bill. Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron is concerned elementary school students would be too young to understand the subject.

“In kindergarten, I had just finished learning my colors and I was reading Dr. Seuss. I’m pretty sure the words communism, capitalism would have just not ... I wouldn’t have understood any of that,” he said.

At its first committee stop, Tampa Democratic Rep. Susan Valdes also raised concerns about the phrase “cultural Marxism” appearing in the bill. The term, typically used by far-right partisans, refers to an theory that Jews and liberals are making an academic and intellectual effort to subvert Western society and undermine Christian values.

“This cultural Marxism, in my opinion, and based on research, is a very politically charged terminology and, you know, neo-Nazis use it. Antisemitic terms are used within this. And I am afraid that is what we are doing to our children at a very young age,” she said.

By the second committee stop, the bill’s sponsors removed the term "cultural Marxism" from the bill. The House and Senate versions still have another committee stop before going to full chamber votes.

Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local panhandle political happenings.
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