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DeSantis touts civics education plan amid concerns of conservative bias in teacher trainings

Teachers have voiced concerns that state civics training courses contradict the governor's goal of "not trying to push an ideological agenda."

SANFORD, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis has consistently championed Florida's civics education approach of "teaching accurate American History without an ideological agenda." But, according to reports, some teachers claim that's not exactly how the state's new program is playing out.

The governor held a press conference on Thursday to give an update on Florida's Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative.

This $106 million initiative, which DeSantis introduced last year, includes a training course teachers can take to earn a Florida civics seal of excellence, which can earn them a $3,000 bonus. He explained that 2,500 teachers are set to complete that program by the end of July.

"You’re learning the real history. You're learning the real facts, but it’s not gonna be done in a way that’s trying to indoctrinate students with whatever modern agenda that somebody may have," the governor explained.

Recent reports, however, have highlighted teachers' worries that conservative ideologies are being promoted through these training programs. 

One teacher told News4JAX that he attended a conference where presenters downplayed slavery and promoted originalism — the idea that the Constitution should be given the original meaning it had when it became law, rather than a modern-day interpretation. 

The Tampa Bay Times spoke to a group of South Florida teachers who voiced similar concerns. 

“It was very skewed,” Barbara Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher, told the Times. “There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.”

According to the newspaper, controversial elements of the training courses focused on "misconceptions" about the founding fathers' views on slavery and religion.

The Times reported that the teacher workshops, which are led by The Florida Department of Education, were developed with the help of Hillsdale College, a private Christian liberal arts school, and the Bills of Rights Institute, which was founded by billionaire Charles Koch.

This isn't the first time teachers have raised concerns about Florida's new civics education standards.

In July 2021, 10 Tampa Bay spoke to a Polk County teacher who said there was "some issue with the objectivity of some of the standards." 

You can learn more about the changes in Florida's curriculum here.

Still, DeSantis is committed to expanding the state's civics education program. On Thursday, he announced that $1 million will be dedicated to the expansion of the Florida Civics & Debate Initiative, which is double last year's funding.

You can watch the governor's full press conference below.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks with education commissioner at school in Sanford

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. are speaking at a technology magnet school in Sanford

Posted by 10 Tampa Bay on Thursday, June 30, 2022



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