DeSantis Suspends School Choice at 4 Florida Schools With CCP Ties

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed the state's Department of Education to suspend availability of school choice scholarships to 4 schools with CCP ties.
DeSantis Suspends School Choice at 4 Florida Schools With CCP Ties
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at The Gathering at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Atlanta on Aug. 19, 2023. (Justin Kase for The Epoch Times)
Caden Pearson

Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to suspend the availability of school choice scholarships to four schools found to have direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The decision, made public on Friday, comes after a thorough investigation conducted by FDOE, which revealed that Lower and Upper Sagemont Preparatory Schools in Weston, Parke House Academy in Winter Park, and Park Maitland School in Winter Park maintain direct connections with the CCP.

The governor's office said in a statement that these schools' connections with the CCP "constitute an imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare of these school’s students and the public."
"[FDOE] has found four schools that have direct ties to the CCP," Mr. DeSantis wrote on X. "We are suspending them from Florida’s school choice scholarship programs, effective immediately. We will not allow Florida’s tax dollars to go to schools with connections to adversarial foreign nations."
In May, Mr. DeSantis signed three laws, including SB 846, Agreements of Educational Entities with Foreign Entities, which prohibits any school affiliated with a foreign country of concern, such as the communist regime of China, from participating in Florida's school choice scholarship programs.

The directive to suspend these four schools from the program is part of the state's ongoing efforts to distance itself from any influences associated with the CCP.

"The Chinese Communist Party is not welcome in the state of Florida," Mr. DeSantis said in a statement. "We will not put up with any attempt to influence students with a communist ideology or allow Floridians' tax dollars to go to schools that are connected to our foreign adversaries."

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. echoed this sentiment.

"The Chinese Communist Party has no place in our schools," Mr. Diaz said in the statement. "I am grateful for Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their work to keep students and our communities safe from foreign countries of concern."

Schools Respond

A spokesperson from Sagemont Preparatory School responded to the suspension.

“We have received notice from the State that our eligibility for Florida Choice school funds has been suspended," the spokesperson told The Epoch Times in a statement. "We were not contacted in advance and are seeking more information regarding the basis for this decision. In the meantime, we will be working directly with our families to ensure they can remain enrolled in our school."

"We are regularly acknowledged as one of the best private schools in our area and have a track record of delivering outstanding educational outcomes, which is why parents choose us," the statement continued. "Our schools are locally run, abide by local, state, and federal laws, and do not have ties to any government or political party, either foreign or domestic. Our curriculum is accredited, standards-based, and academically rigorous.”

An identical statement was issued by a spokesperson from Park Maitland Schools.

In addition to the suspension of school choice scholarships, Mr. DeSantis has enacted several major educational reforms aimed at addressing concerns related to the CCP.

In May, Mr. DeSantis said Florida was "taking a stand" against the CCP when he signed three bills limiting CCP influence in the state.

The measures taken by Florida to protect the state from the CCP include banning the regime, and any other foreign country of concern, from buying agricultural land anywhere in Florida or making land purchases within 10 miles of sensitive locations such as military bases, ports, or power plants. Nor may their officials accept gifts from the CCP or countries of concern.

Further measures included blocking access to TikTok on educational institution servers and devices. The app, which is popular with young people, spies on its users, mines data from them, and gives it to the CCP, according to security experts and authorities.

The actions taken by Florida this year also prohibit state colleges and universities from accepting grants or participating in agreements with colleges or universities based in China or other foreign countries of concern unless approved by the Board of Governors or State Board of Education.

The Republican governor had already banned Confucius Institutes, which have been viewed as propaganda centers for the CCP.

Mr. DeSantis said in May that Florida's actions have made its stance on the CCP "very clear."

“We don’t want the CCP in the Sunshine State," he said at the bill signing ceremony. "We want to maintain this as the Free State of Florida."

"Foreign adversaries will not have access to our schools, government, and companies like they in the past," the Republican governor said. "In fact, the first bill that I signed today safeguards our public institutions from undue foreign influence, and that means prohibiting agreements between public entities and the communist party of China, or Cuba, or any of these other malignant forces."

The governor's office said on Friday that the FDOE is currently collaborating with nonprofit scholarship funding organizations to assist impacted students in finding and enrolling in nearby eligible schools.

The Epoch Times contacted Lower and Upper Sagemont Preparatory Schools, Parke House Academy, and Park Maitland School for comment.

This report was updated with comments from the schools.