In what he says is a continued effort to lead the nation in education, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday a new $106 million proposal to prioritize civics education in public schools.
The Governor says the new plan will build upon the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative that he launched last year. The proposal would work to develop “high-quality civics education” and reward teachers with bonuses for obtaining proper training and certifications.
“Now more than ever, it’s essential we place an emphasis on civics education in our schools,” DeSantis said.
“For every teacher completing the training and earning the Florida Civics Seal of Excellence endorsement, they will receive a $3,000 bonus,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also says he intends for all high school seniors to pass a civics exam, similar to a U.S. citizenship test, before graduating.
This is not the first major education initiative the Governor spearheaded since taking office.
In 2020, DeSantis eliminated Common Core education standards and replaced it with Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T). and championed the approval of $500 million in the state’s budget dedicated to raising teacher salaries to at least $47,500.
Politics aside, calls by scholars and educators to reprioritize civics learning in public schools have been steadily growing for some time.
A 2016 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government. .
In 2018, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation concluded that only 1 in 3 Americans could pass the nation’s Citizenship Test .
And according to the Pew Research Center, which tracks public trust in government, as of March 2019, only an unnerving 17 percent trust the government in Washington to do the right thing .
Until the 1960s, American high school students commonly took three separate courses in civics and government. But civics offerings were slashed as the curriculum narrowed, slowly losing ground to “core subjects”, according to the National Education Association .
Only 9 states require one year of U.S. government or civics, and Florida, according to Stephen Sawchuk, already has one of the most extensive civics education mandates of all the states.
But DeSantis says more needs to be done to “get politicization out of the curriculum.”
The fear shared by many education researchers is that students who do not receive an adequate understanding of the structure of government, civic literacy, or their rights and responsibilities as citizens could become adults who fuel existing division and discord.
In a report by the Harvard Gazette, Paul Carrese, principal investigator and founding director at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, says diminishing investments in civics learning across the country has eroded the fundamental, nonpartisan beliefs Americans once shared.
“The country is very divided [and] we know from repeated high-quality surveys and studies that there’s widespread loss of confidence in our very form of government, in the American civic order. America, we think, is in this bad place in part because the American education system — not only in schools, but in higher education — has neglected the teaching of civics and American history” Carrese said.
Desantis urged state leaders to consider the civics proposal using funds that are already available through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) provided to the state through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and CARES Act appropriations.
Cox Media Group