Florida Board of Education restricts DEI program funding in colleges, substitutes Sociology course

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By Carina

The Florida Board of Education has recently implemented a significant policy change, restricting the use of public funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the state’s college system. 

Announced on January 17, this decision directly impacts Florida’s 28 state college campuses, including Valencia College, Seminole State College, and others. 

Florida Board limits public funding for DEI initiatives

This ruling aligns with the board’s aim to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to support DEI programs.

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The new rule characterizes DEI as any activity, program, or policy that classifies individuals based on race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential treatment based on such classifications. 

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Florida enforces restrictions on DEI funding in colleges

According to the rule, Florida College System institutions are prohibited from using state or federal funds to administer programs that categorize individuals based on race or sex for differential treatment or that meet the state’s definition of DEI. 

Florida’s Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. commented, “Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” adding, “These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers’ money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society.”

Florida’s commitment to education and regulatory changes

The board emphasized Florida’s commitment to offering students education focused on the pursuit of truth rather than biased indoctrination. 

This decision follows the state being ranked first in the nation for higher education for seven consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report. 

Notably, the Florida Board of Governors had previously voted to approve similar regulations for public universities on November 9, 2023. 

However, the January 17 decision officially implements this regulation across the Florida College System.

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Governor DeSantis’s stance on higher education reform

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been vocal about reforming higher education in the state, criticizing DEI programs for teaching critical race theory and promoting social justice activism centered on race and gender. 

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In May 2023, DeSantis signed legislation banning the use of taxpayer dollars for DEI programs in state colleges and universities and restricting how gender and race are taught, especially in relation to “identity politics.” 

“DEI is better viewed as standing for ‘discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,’ and that has no place in our public institutions,” DeSantis stated when signing the bill. 

However, these measures have attracted criticism, with opponents arguing that they may marginalize underrepresented groups.

Changes in curriculum: Replacing sociology with American history

In addition to the DEI funding restrictions, the Florida Board of Education announced the replacement of a “principles of sociology” course with a “comprehensive general education core course in American history.” 

This change aims to provide an accurate account of the nation’s history, moving away from what the board describes as “radical woke ideologies” prevalent in the previous sociology course. 

While the sociology class will no longer be part of the standard course options, students can still access it if desired, as clarified by Florida College System Chancellor Kathryn Hebda.

Debate over Florida board’s DEI funding decision and academic freedom

The board’s decision has sparked responses from various quarters, including civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who expressed his concerns on X: “We continue to go down a misguided path of censorship in Florida!” 

This reaction highlights the ongoing debate and contention surrounding the role of DEI in educational institutions and the broader implications of such policy changes on academic freedom and diversity in higher education.

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