Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a civics education bill unanimously approved by the state legislature, citing concerns of promoting potentially biased political viewpoints and activism in Florida’s education system.
DeSantis on Tuesday nixed Senate Bill 146, which received zero nay votes from either legislative chambers before it was sent to his desk. The bill would have developed a civic literacy practicum that requires high school students to participate in “civic engagement activities,” such as taking up an unpaid government internship or observing a naturalization ceremony. It would also have established a Citizen Scholar Program at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus, in partnership with the Florida YMCA, to provide high school students with college credits for their participation.
In his veto letter (pdf), the Republican governor said the legislation would further politically biased “action civics” that favored philosophies of the USF and the YMCA.
“The proposed bill seeks to further so-called ‘action civics’ but does so in a way that risks promoting the preferred orthodoxy of two particular institutions,” the message reads.
DeSantis also noted that his administration has been doing much to strengthen civics education throughout the state.
“Indeed we have embedded strong civics curriculum in every grade level of Florida’s kindergarten through grade 12 English Language Arts standards, and implemented the national model Florida Civics and Debate Initiative,” he wrote. “Moreover, the Department of Education is in the process of adopting new civics standards and developing high-quality curriculum aligned to those standards.”
The veto came about two weeks after conservative news site The National Review warned that the bipartisan Florida bill could actually open a backdoor allowing partisan politics to influence K-12 education.
The article, headlined “DeSantis Should Veto SB 146,” argued that the measure “contains no protections against politicized action civics and will easily be used as a wedge to import protest civics into Florida.”
Action civics, according to conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, is a progressive-led movement that “encourages students to participate in protests and demonstrations more than study history and our founding ideals, and understand the structure of American government.”
“While teaching students to volunteer in their communities is admirable, focusing civic education on protesting before teaching young people how to evaluate different social and political causes only makes them more likely to jump on the bandwagon of whatever movement is popular at the time,” wrote Jonathan Butcher, a fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation.