Ron DeSantis Eliminates Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Funding at Florida Public Universities

"DEI is better viewed as standing for 'discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,' and that has no place in our public institutions," DeSantis said in signing the bill Monday

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that will eliminate funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs from public universities and prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in general education courses.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (also known as DEI) and critical race theory (or CRT) courses have become a hot button topic, particularly among conservatives who argue that the classes will teach white students that they are inferior to their minority peers. Progressives, however, say that these classes help foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

DeSantis has argued against them, claiming that "woke" ideology is racially divisive and discriminatory. CRT, he has said, is "state-sanctioned racism that ... [teaches] kids to hate our country or to hate each other."

Related:Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' Administration Blocks AP African American History Course From High Schools

"DEI is better viewed as standing for 'discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,' and that has no place in our public institutions," DeSantis said in signing the bill Monday, according to Florida's Voice News.

SB 266 mandates that any Florida College System institution "may not expend any state or federal funds to promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities that ... advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, or promote or engage in political or social activism."

The bill also forbids Florida's public colleges from offering general education courses that "distort significant historical events," or are "based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, or economic inequities."

In his press conference, DeSantis said, "the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida, we are eliminating the DEI programs. We are going to treat people as individuals, we're not going to treat people as members of groups. And it's also wrong how this has been implemented."

Mandating what and how children learn has proved a focus of DeSantis during his tenure as governor.

One race in education-related bill signed into law by the governor last year — which requires schools to submit instructional material to the state's Department of Education for textbook review — has already led to confusion among textbook manufacturers. CNN reports that textbook-maker Studies Weekly removed references to race from a passage on Rosa Parks being arrested after refusing to change her bus seat in 1955.

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In January, DeSantis' administration rejected a new Advanced Placement course on African American history, saying in a letter that the course "lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law."

"In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion," read the letter, which was sent to the College Board from the Florida Department of Education Office of Articulation.

CBS News reported at the time that the letter does not specify what, exactly is inaccurate about the course, which is now in a pilot phase in 60 high schools around the country.

According to TIME, the course covered more than 400 years of African American history and is the College Board's first new offering since 2014.

Speaking to reporters in a press briefing in January, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the decision to block the course "incomprehensible," saying: "These types of actions aren't new, especially from what we're seeing from Florida, sadly."

In his January inauguration speech, DeSantis slammed what he called "philosophical lunacy" in schools, saying: "We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideologies."

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DeSantis is widely rumored to be mulling a run for the presidency, and has dominated headlines since assuming the office of governor as the commander in chief. In recent years, he's made headlines by fueling culture-war conflicts by enacting Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, pushing to ban gender-affirming medical care, refusing to order COVID vaccines for young children, and scolding students wearing masks.

While DeSantis was initially viewed as a formidable opponent to former President Donald Trump — who announced his own 2024 candidacy last year — some Republican donors have recently said they won't help finance a presidential bid by the governor due to his extreme social positions on things like abortion, book bans, and his continual fight with Walt Disney World.

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