Florida's State Board of Education announced Wednesday it has implemented "strict regulations" to limit the use of public funds for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, activities and policies at the 28 state college campuses.
The board said the rule prohibits Florida College System institutions from using state or federal funds to administer programs that "categorize individuals based on race or sex for the purpose of differential or preferential treatment." In a statement from the Florida Department of Education, the board said the decision will ensure that taxpayer funds can no longer be used to promote DEI.
In addition to the passage of the new rule, the State Board of Education said it also replaced the course Principles of Sociology with a course in American history.
"The aim is to provide students with an accurate and factual account of the nation's past, rather than exposing them to radical woke ideologies, which had become commonplace in the now replaced course," the FDOE said in a statement.
Targeting DEI has been a key talking point of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state's education department during his second term in office.
Wednesday's announcement by state education officials comes after DeSantis signed a bill into law last year that eliminated state or federal spending on DEI programs at publicly funded colleges in Florida.
The governor also asked Florida's public colleges and universities in 2023 to report how much money they are spending on DEI. He later said they self-reported at least $34 million.
"Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies," Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said Wednesday. "These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers' money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society."
Meanwhile, Black leaders have pushed back on the initiatives to limit DEI at state colleges, saying DeSantis is playing politics in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.
Some students have expressed worries that campuses across the state won't be as welcoming to minorities in light of the changes.
The nonprofit Equality Florida released the following statement regarding passage of the new rule:
"There's no surprise today that the State Board of Education, a board that has been a rubber stamp for Governor Ron DeSantis's agenda of censorship and surveillance, moved forward with another sweepingly broad rule that abolishes diversity and inclusion programs in the Florida College System. The Board's rules go well beyond what’s required by Governor DeSantis's already extreme SB 266, handcuffing state colleges from using any state-funded resources on diversity programs that help recruit talented faculty, support students with unique needs, and help Florida's colleges compete for national research and funding. This is a brazenly political attack on Florida's colleges, and all minorities in Florida, and is one more way state agencies have been weaponized to support Governor DeSantis's failing political ambitions. Shame on the State Board of Education for passing rules that weaken and threaten Florida's colleges in service to one more manufactured culture war."
This story was originally published by Scott Sutton at Scripps News West Palm Beach.
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