Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Vetoes ‘Stealth’ Action Civics Bill

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The governor announced that the stadium's parking lot which offers COVID-19 tests will begin to offer COVID-19 vaccinations for residents …
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has vetoed a misleading bill that would have allowed state sponsorship and funding of “action” or “protest” civics, an education method that permits students to earn class credit for participating in or helping to organize political protests or lobbying efforts.

On Tuesday, DeSantis vetoed SB 146, titled Civic Literacy Education, a deceptive bill that passed the Florida legislature unanimously with the backing of prominent sponsors.

The bill would have required the Florida commissioner of education to “develop criteria for a civic literacy practicum that meets certain goals” and authorize “time spent on specified civic engagement activities to count toward requirements for certain scholarships and academic awards,” the bill’s description states.

In his veto message, DeSantis said:

My administration has worked hard to strengthen civics instruction and education in Florida’s kindergarten through post-secondary public schools. Indeed, we have embedded strong civics curriculum in every grade level of Florida’s kindergarten through grade 12 English Language Arts standards, and implemented the national model Florida Civics and Debate Initiative. Moreover, the Department of Education is in the process of adopting new civics standards and developing high-quality curriculum aligned to those standards.

The proposed bill seeks to further so-called “action civics” but does so in a way that risks promoting the preferred orthodoxy of two particular institutions.

For these reasons, I withhold my approval of SB 146 and do hereby veto the same.

While DeSantis has already moved to prohibit teaching the principles of Critical Race Theory in Florida schools, SB 146 could have re-opened the gate to the Marxist ideology, wrote Stanley Kurtz at National Review, who has been sounding the alarm about “action civics” legislation over the past several months.

Kurtz, the author of the Partisanship Out of Civics Act, a model for legislation that seeks to ban action civics at the state level, has warned approval of such measures will likely only aid leftist causes by providing grants for students to earn credit for participating in events such as Black Lives Matter protests, lobbying state lawmakers with Planned Parenthood for comprehensive sex education, and spurring students to organize protests for gun control, as was the case already with the Obama administration following the Parkland shootings.

Kurtz has explained “action” or “protest” civics will be funded in much the same way as the Common Core State Standards — through massive education grants the federal government will dangle in front of states to be accompanied by attached “strings” that would force such civics engagement on school districts.

Applauding DeSantis’ move to veto the bill, Kurtz wrote:

The DeSantis veto of S.B. 146 marks a turning point in the national battle over protest civics. Heretofore, states have passed stealth action-civics bills with bipartisan support. Similarly misguided bills are pending in Congress. It’s unlikely that Republicans in Florida would have supported S.B. 146 if they’d heard about protest civics and understood its nature. The same goes for Republicans unknowingly supporting protest-civics bills in other states.

Executive Editor at the Federalist Joy Pullmann also praised DeSantis’ veto of the bill, observing the move “suggests he’s not another pandering Republican who mouths slogans while failing to follow through with serious action securing his voters’ best interests.”

Among “action civics” bills at the federal level is the Civics Secures Democracy Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and backed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).

As Kurtz noted, a “Civics Alliance” brought together by the National Association of Scholars to combat action civics has called on Cornyn and Cole to abandon their support for the legislation.

“Neither has budged, and Cornyn has even made false assertions about the nature of the bill,” Kurtz wrote, citing a statement Cornyn’s spokesperson made to Breitbart News in May:

The Biden Administration’s attempt to circumvent Congress, and more importantly local school boards, is outrageous. Senator Cornyn’s legislation actually prohibits the Biden Administration from establishing federal curriculum, like CRT. Additionally, under his bill the K-12 grants are formula grants based on Title I allocations. Therefore, CRT could not be federally implemented by the Biden Administration because these awards are not made at the discretion of the secretary. We need Sen. Cornyn’s bill to help stop the Biden Administration from doing this. The bill was first introduced under the Trump Administration, and Sen. Cornyn signed the letter led by Leader McConnell last week on this issue.”

Kurtz vehemently disagreed, however, explaining Cornyn is “simply mistaken”:

First, Cornyn claims that his bill “actually prohibits the Biden administration from establishing federal curriculum, like CRT.” Unfortunately, this is both mistaken and misleading. It’s true that the bill includes a “rule of construction” stating that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the Secretary of Education to prescribe a civics and history curriculum.” Notice that this is not a “prohibition.” It merely says that nothing in the bill shall be construed to “authorize” the secretary of education to “prescribe” a civics and history curriculum.

“The Civics Secures Democracy Act explicitly … states: ‘The Secretary of Education is authorized to make grants to states, on a competitive basis, to support educational programs in civics and history . . .’” Kurtz continued, adding:

Senator Cornyn’s defense of his bill is mistaken and untenable … I hope he will abandon support for this bill before he hands Biden the tool he needs to force action civics and Critical Race Theory onto every school in the nation.

Kurtz, however, sees signs of progress at the state level.

In June, Texas passed a ban on both the teaching of concepts associated with Critical Race Theory and on “action civics,” and the Georgia Board of Education became the first state board to resolve to ban both Critical Race Theory and “action civics.”

With DeSantis’ veto of SB 146, Kurtz wrote “the push-back against protest civics has truly gained traction.”

“This veto is every bit as much a tribute to the parents across Florida now fighting against politicized schools as it is to Governor DeSantis,” he observed.

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