Friday, December 1, 2023

On the DeSantis Presidential Bid


Gov Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, announced that he would seek his party’s nomination for president in 2024.

Ron DeSantisSARASOTA, Fla. (Jan. 2023) — DeSantis announces higher education reform at a speech.

In addition to launching a campaign for the presidency, Mr DeSantis has been in the news for a lawsuit filed against him and the state by Disney, reports Brooks Huber in the student newspaper at Newsome High School in Lithia, Florida. He’s also gained notoriety for a series of laws concerning the lessons that can and can’t be taught and discussions that can and can’t happen in public schools.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr DeSantis initiated a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” stemming from Disney’s criticism of a law Mr DeSantis signed last year, which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for kindergarten through third-grade students. Since then, the Florida Department of Education has extended the law for students through 12th grade.

He also signaled earlier this month his support for a bill prohibiting public school employees, including teachers, from calling students pronouns other than those matching their gender at birth, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

From a scientific perspective, “by … disparaging the use of preferred pronouns and names, the governor and his followers will undoubtedly add to the suffering of transgender individuals. Multiple studies have looked at the mental health of transgender teens,” the editors of Scientific American wrote.

But in terms of the public schools in Florida, perhaps the most harmful law he ushered in comes in the form of an expanding voucher program to help offset the cost of tuition at non-public schools, Florida Politics reports.

Some have argued that so-called “universal” school-choice voucher programs, which don’t take family income into account, are nothing more than checks for people who are already rich. This law made Florida the fifth state nationwide to provide universal school choice.

Critics of these programs often say they steal money that would otherwise go to the public schools and provide help for families who can already afford to send their kids to private schools while leaving struggling families behind. Indeed, the $8,000 per-pupil voucher is unlikely to cover the cost of tuition at most of Florida’s private schools, so poorer families won’t be able to use it anyway.

Florida subtracts the cost of vouchers from the state aid allocations for the districts where students taking advantage of vouchers live, Education Week quoted Jessica Levin, director of Public Funds Public Schools, as saying. This national nonprofit advocates for states to meet their constitutional obligations in education.

But Mr DeSantis dismissed claims that the expanded program would deprive public schools of funds.

“One, the amount of scholarship money is less than what would go per pupil for public [schools] anyway,” he was quoted as saying. “Second, since I’ve been governor, we’ve raised the funding to our public schools every year. I mean, the idea that they’ve been starved that theoretically could happen … that’s a choice that legislators and a governor would make. But the push is to have more funding for the school districts.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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