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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, announced Tuesday the withdrawal of public funding for diversity, inclusion and critical race theory education programs, while hitting back at recent criticism from former President Donald Trump over his handling of the pandemic in the state.
DeSantis, during an event at the State College of Florida, announced a proposal to eliminate funding for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, as well as critical race theory at the state’s state universities.
The Republican criticized what he understands as “indoctrination” on university campuses intended by these programs to supposedly “impose a political agenda.”
“This is a hostile bureaucracy – those programs – to academic freedom,” DeSantis argued at the press conference, after assuring that he will not allow what he called “indoctrination” in the classroom, at least, he said, as long as he is at the helm of the state of Florida.
The governor insisted that these programs are intended to achieve “political activism” with public funds.
Therefore, the Republican said that Florida legislators will address the issue during the Florida legislative session that begins in March.
Renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump announced last week that he will sue Florida if it is not allowed to pilot an African-American studies course as part of an advanced program for high school students.
The state Department of Education, which is headed by Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. rejected this course in a letter sent to the College Board, the higher education board that oversees Advanced Placement (AP) classes in African American studies.
Diaz Jr. described this course as “indoctrination disguised as education”.
The Florida Democratic Party criticized DeSantis’ stance on history and black communities in a statement released Tuesday.
The statement claims that DeSantis has a history of attacking black communities in Florida, has protected Confederate statues and pushed for discriminatory legislation against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Tuesday’s press conference also served as an opportunity for DeSantis to respond to criticism from former President Donald Trump (2017-2021) and point out that, unlike Trump’s 2020 candidacy, voters did re-elect him in the last midterm elections.
“If you are faced with a crisis situation like covid-19, when you are an elected executive, you have to make decisions, you have to steer the ship,” DeSantis said, after clarifying that afterwards “people can make a judgment on it and re-elect you or not.”
“I am happy to say that, in my case, we not only won re-election, but we did it with the highest percentage of votes that any Republican candidate for governor has ever garnered in the history of the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis’ remarks come after Trump, who has already launched his 2024 bid to lead the Republicans, criticized the Florida governor last Saturday.
Trump called DeSantis – who is expected to file in May to run in the Republican primary for president – “disloyal” and accused him of changing his views on covid-19 vaccines.
“Florida was closed for a long time. Remember, he closed the beaches and everything else,” Trump said of DeSantis.