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Governor DeSantis signs legislation to promote civics education in America

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 23:53:31-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 5, SB 1108 and HB 233 that will collectively strengthen civics instruction and civics literacy education in Florida’s kindergarten through postsecondary public schools.

“I’m proud to sign three bills today that prioritize civics education in our schools,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “The sad reality is that only two in five Americans can correctly name the three branches of government, and more than a third of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is abundantly clear that we need to do a much better job of educating our students in civics to prepare them for the rest of their lives. My thanks to Representative Zika, Representative Rizo, Representative Roach, Senator Ray Rodrigues, Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez and Senator Diaz for sponsoring this legislation that will ensure our students get an incredible civics education. I also want to thank President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls for making this important legislation a priority.”

DeSantis was joined by individuals who escaped persecution from totalitarian regimes in countries like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, including Ana Margarita Abaunza. Ana came to Florida from Nicaragua when the Sandinista regime took power, then moved to Venezuela with her husband, and had a good life there until Hugo Chavez took power, forcing her to flee again to the United States.

Governor DeSantis was also joined today by students taking part in the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative, including Sebastian Canizares, a student at Three Oaks Middle School. Sebastian won the Florida Gulf Coast Regionals in Original Oratory and placed second in the Florida Championships.

Here is a breakdown of the three bills DeSantis signed today:

House Bill 5 requires the Florida Department of Education to create an integrated K-12 civic education curriculum that includes an understanding of citizens' shared rights and responsibilities under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It further expands required instruction in high school to include a comparative discussion of political ideologies that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States, such as communism and totalitarianism.

This bill also provides a library of "Portraits in Patriotism" based on personal stories of diverse individuals who demonstrate civic-minded qualities, including those who have moved to this country after being persecuted in nations like Cuba and Venezuela..

Senate Bill 1108 requires state college and state university students to take both a civic literacy course and a civic literacy assessment as a graduation requirement, bridging civics education between our high schools and postsecondary institutions.

The bill further requires high school students to take a civic literacy assessment that has no high stakes consequences. If a high school student passes the test, that student is exempted from the postsecondary test requirement.

The bill also expands the character development curriculum for high school juniors and seniors to include instructions on how to register to vote.

House Bill 233 requires state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments of the viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions to ensure that Florida’s postsecondary students will be shown diverse ideas and opinions, including those that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.

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