JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two days after announcing his 2024 bid for president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Orlando on Friday touting his aggressive education agenda and criticizing Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at a conference for parents of homeschooled students.
Last week, DeSantis signed SB 266 which will prevent Florida colleges and universities from spending any state or federal funding on diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Removing the programs from universities was part of his sweeping education agenda that included a number of laws that will change public education in the state for years to come.
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“They say it’s diversity, equity and inclusion. But in reality, it’s used as a veneer to impose ideological conformity on the university. We think DEI better stands for the way it’s practiced: discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination,” DeSantis said.
Harvard Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad was one of those who spoke out against the idea of Florida lawmakers eliminating all state funding for DEI programs.
“We will see a version of flight from the state for people who take these values as fundamental to who they are. And Florida will not be able to compete with some of the best talent that exists in this country because they will see the backlash against DEI as an indication that Florida is not a welcoming place,” he said.
Some faculty and staff said it is creating a “chilling effect,” NBC News reported.
“It’s a scary time for education,” said Eduardo Padrón, president emeritus of Miami Dade College, who led the institution for almost 25 years and received the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts to expand higher education and make it more accessible. “All the progress we have made to be more inclusive in Florida is going away.”
DeSantis said Friday he believes other states will follow Florida’s lead in defunding the programs.
“What we’re doing I think, is taking education into our own hands as Floridians and you’re doing it as parents in the homeschool movement. We’re doing it in Tallahassee as governor and our legislature to say, education is just something we’ve got to get right,” DeSantis said.
MORE: Gov. DeSantis says Florida rejected AP African-American class due to mentions of ‘queer theory,’ and ‘intersectionality’
The governor met with donors in Miami this week and is looking to build his war chest before hitting the three key primary states, WKMG reported. He is set to kick off his campaign with a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, followed by a number of stops in the state Wednesday, including in cities such as Sioux City and Cedar Rapids. On Thursday, DeSantis is expected to have four stops in New Hampshire and will end the week in South Carolina.
DeSantis formally launched his campaign Wednesday night during an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. But the audio stream crashed repeatedly, making it difficult for most users to hear the announcement in real time.
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Former President Donald Trump, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott and DeSantis are considered to be among the front-runners to win the Republican nomination and challenge President Joe Biden in 2024.