Lamenting the bleak state of civics literacy among young people, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday touted a $106 million effort intended to shore up civics education in Florida’s public schools.
“I think every single piece of survey data, or any time people have ever looked at what is the baseline civic knowledge for people throughout American society, but particularly for young people, I think 100% of the time the results come back and they’re pretty doggone dismal,” DeSantis said.
Speaking at BridgePrep Academy of Orange, an Orlando charter school, the governor said the Florida Department of Education intends to bridge those knowledge gaps in part by creating the Civic Seal of Excellence, a professional training program that would credential teachers who complete the course and award them $3,000 bonuses.
“Everyone’s got to be called upon to exercise the duties of citizenship,” he said. “So of all the things you’re doing, civics is something that you can take with you for the rest of your life.”
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DeSantis said $65 million, or more than half of the initiative’s $106 million in funding, is set aside for the credentialing program, which has been in the works for several months. He said the program, which is paid for at least in part by federal funding, is not just for civics teachers.
“I think it’s worthwhile,” DeSantis said. “I think, obviously, there’s a financial incentive to do it. But if you’re teaching other subjects—not everyone has a connection—but certainly some other subjects do have a connection where this could be important for a baseline.”
As part of the initiative, $16.5 million is allocated for additional training, development and classroom support for educators and principals seeking to elevate civics education in their schools, DeSantis said. Another $17.5 million is dedicated to shoring up civic curriculum and introducing best practices.
The governor said $6.5 million more will go towards setting up a career pathway program to launch pilot programs for “public service incubators” to form partnerships between secondary schools and avenues to careers in public service.
“We think that is building off a lot of the momentum that we’ve already been able to create,” he said.
All this funding, the governor said, is aimed at addressing knowledge gaps when it comes to American history and how government works.
“We want credentials issued during this school year, we want bonuses received during this school year,” he said. “Obviously, we just had the budget, and now we’re putting this together with the funding. But I think it’s going to be something that will make a big difference in that. And I did tell them, we want to move forward very quickly.”