Governor Ron DeSantis signs legislation to set the pace for civics education in America

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.”

“Civics education is an extremely important component of a student’s educational journey,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “A well-rounded civics education that also includes an opportunity for students to participate in the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative gives these students an increased chance of meeting or exceeding college-readiness benchmarks, leading to almost 99 percent of them attending college and increasing the chance of being offered college scholarships. The legislation signed today is a huge step forward for our students, our state and our nation and I thank our legislators for their commitment to increasing students’ civics knowledge.”

“We are fortunate to live in the greatest country the world has ever known,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson. “We aren’t perfect, but the freedom available to every American stands in stark contrast to the dangerous ideologies that produce corrupt regimes in other countries. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Speaker Sprowls and so many patriots in the Legislature, I’m pleased to see Florida continue to focus on civics education and literacy, and to specifically highlight brave individuals who were victims of other nations’ governing policies. We also want to make sure we have a measurement of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity within higher education. I’m grateful to our Governor for signing these key bills into law.”

“Educating people on the crimes of communism is the cornerstone of VOC’s mission,” said Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President and CEO of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. “This education is especially crucial for America’s youth during their formative years, so we applaud Florida for ensuring their students will receive this education. VOC’s most recent poll on US Attitudes Toward Socialism, Communism and Collectivism further proves the necessity of student education on communism, as only 63% of Gen Z and Millennials believe the Declaration of Independence better “guarantees freedom and equality” over the Communist Manifesto and 40% of Americans today have a favorable view of socialism.”

“As a daughter and granddaughter of Cuban refugees, my family knows firsthand the dangers Communism and the fatal consequences of totalitarian regimes,” said Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez. “May this bill serve as a tool to assure history doesn’t repeat itself in our great nation.”

“My thanks to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for signing into law this important civic education legislation, that passed unanimously in the Florida Legislature,” said Representative Ardian Zika. “As an American who began my journey as an immigrant, I’m a product of America’s exceptionalism. Through the Portraits in Patriotism Act, American stories like mine and many others’ will be shared with our students!”

“Florida continues to lead the nation in education by providing every 11th grade student the opportunity to take the SAT/ACT,” said Senator Manny Diaz, Jr.“These assessments will not only ensure our students are academically prepared; they are molding the next generation of leaders. I applaud Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran for pushing Florida’s education system to new heights.”

“This bill not only affords the opportunity for every Junior in the State of Florida to take a college entrance exam at no cost to themselves, opening up the doors of opportunity like never before for every student, but it also will give an overall Benchmark for civic literacy in high school and will continue to build upon that benchmark in the University system,” said Representative Alex Rizo. “The legislature’s commitment to Civic literacy, as well as the governor’s, is evident in this bill like none other. I applaud the governor for signing SB 1108 and ensuring that young Floridians will have a much stronger basis in Civic literacy.”

“We have a responsibility to teach students how to think for themselves rather than indoctrinating them on what to think,” said Senator Ray Rodrigues. “Without a measurement of intellectual diversity, it is impossible to know if Florida taxpayers are providing an education or an indoctrination. Governor DeSantis understands the difference and I am grateful for his commitment to ensuring viewpoint diversity exists on our campuses.”

“When educational institutions place a premium on people that look different but think the same, that’s not diversity — that’s conformity,” said Representative Spencer Roach. “I thank Governor DeSantis for ensuring that Florida’s 12 state universities and 28 state colleges will foster ideological competition and diversity of viewpoint to make all campuses a true marketplace of ideas. Florida students deserve nothing less.”

Today, Governor 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.

House Bill 5: Civic Education Curriculum

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: Education

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: Postsecondary Education

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.