Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday held an education-related bill signing ceremony on the campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota.
Among the bills, DeSantis signed SB 266 which will prevent Florida colleges and universities from spending any state or federal funding on diversity, equity and inclusion programs. The bill also changes the way in which faculty members are hired and gives more power to the presidents of the universities. It will require the State Board of Education and state university system’s Board of Governors to appoint faculty committees that would review general-education core courses. Those reviews could lead to the “removal, alignment, realignment, or addition” of courses based on various criteria in the bill.
Supporters say the bill will lead to more accountability, but critics say it will ultimately hurt Florida’s colleges.
“We don’t see the data that DEI is ruining our schools. We actually see the opposite of it,” Rep. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, said. “It’s actually encouraging robust conversations and viewpoints, and that’s what college is all about.”
Republican lawmakers in at least a dozen states have proposed more than 30 bills this year targeting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education, an Associated Press analysis found using the bill-tracking software Plural.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion — like so many other things terms adopted by the ‘woke’ left, has been used as a club to silence things, to say that if you don’t agree with them you are somehow racist, homophobic or whatever other word that you want to use to criticize people,” said Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican. “The fact of the word is that the word has been hijacked.”
Bill critics said diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are important and that the legislation will drive away top faculty members and students.
“This attack on higher education is hurting Florida’s brand,” House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said. “We have a very good higher-education system with lower costs than many other states. But these radical changes risk throwing our colleges and universities into chaos.”
The governor also signed HB 931, which prohibits colleges and universities from requiring students, faculty, and staff to sign “diversity statements” before admittance or hiring.
SB 240, also signed by DeSantis on Monday, expands access to workforce education programs as well as career and technical education programs in middle school and high school.