ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis was at Ridgeview High School on Thursday where seven Clay County teachers received the Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement, which comes with a $3,000 check.
The teachers, who are among 4,500 across the state to receive the bonuses, completed a new training program that some believe will help them become better teachers.
DeSantis announced the bonuses at a news conference at Ridgeview High, along with Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz.
The Civics Seal of Education training course for teachers includes materials and methods to teach students about America and its history.
In the program, the teachers had to go through at least 50 hours of course material designed to impart “better ways to teach Civics to students, no matter the grade.”
It started in January with the Department of Education offering bonuses to the first 20,000 teachers to complete the course.
DeSantis said this kind of teaching is important for students, and he wants them to graduate from high school with that knowledge.
“We think we have a responsibility to help graduate students out of our school system with a foundation of understanding what it means to be an American, a foundation of understanding what are the principles that have made our country unique and made our country great,” DeSantis said. “That has really been a lost art I think over the last generation. If you look at the civic knowledge of the population, it is abysmal.”
Michael Taft, a civics teacher at Green Cove Springs Junior High School, said he endorses the program.
“I will be the person carrying the flag for civics seal, the excellent out in the front line, because I think every teacher in the state of Florida should be doing this course,” Taft said. “They will learn so much about what it really means to be a citizen of this country.”
Brittany Bishop, a fifth-grade social studies teacher at Coppergate Elementary in Middleburg, was also one of the recipients.
“Every day when you are in that school, when you are not in that school, when you’re in your community, you step up, and you have the right, you have the way, you have the world to make an impact in a child’s life and teach them the proper way to be a citizen,” Bishop said.
The governor is pushing for funding for the initiative to be granted every year. He said right now there are 14,000 teachers on a waitlist to enroll in the program.
“If you have a very knowledgeable, passionate teacher teaching the students, that is going to make all of the difference,” DeSantis said.
The Department of Education in Florida also wants to beef up a few more initiatives and programs, including:
- Civics and debate programs for students -- with a goal of reaching 400 schools throughout the state
- Starting a civics literacy exam. You would not be required to pass it to graduate but it would exempt you from a post-secondary literacy exam requirement after high school
Thursday’s news conference came as DeSantis’ administration is moving to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial Parental Rights in Education Act — referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — to high schools.
The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote next month before the state Board of Education and has been put forth by the state Education Department, both of which are led by appointees of the governor.
The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take. The initial law that DeSantis championed last spring bans those lessons in kindergarten through the third grade. The change was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.