The National Association of Scholars commends Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for vetoing S.B. 146, a bill which would covertly introduce partisan “action civics” into Florida’s civics curriculum. DeSantis’s foresight is all the more laudable because the bill received unanimous support from the Florida Legislature. It appeared to be a moment for bipartisan cooperation—this nonpartisan veneer, however, would have proven ironic. Action civics injects partisanship directly into K-12 education.
The National Association of Scholars has long sounded the alarm about action civics. Often promoted under the guise of “community engagement” and “service learning,” action civics throws students directly into the political fray, requiring them to choose a political issue and publicly advocate for a “solution.” Such an approach rewards the most dogmatic students and teachers, paving the way for ideological peer pressure and self censorship. These projects, moreover, invariably embrace the political priorities of the left.
Governor DeSentis was right to note in his veto letter that the bill would promote the “preferred orthodoxy” of unaccountable organizations. As is often the case, S.B. 146 funds action civics in a roundabout manner, outsourcing civics education to the YMCA Youth and Government program and the Center for Civic Engagement at the University of South Florida. YMCA Youth and Government touts its “Changemaker Institute,” a program which requires students to choose from a short list of issues to “address.” That list includes “Climate Action & Sustainability,” “Gender Equity & LGBTQ Rights,” and “Racial Equity & Justice.” Under the new law, this progressive activism would be funded by the state.
Through his veto, Governor DeSantis thwarted a common tactic of action civics advocates. Advocates often promote activist civics by way of nonprofits, calling for nonprofit partnerships with school districts and education departments. These nonprofits effectively supplant the role of state and local authorities, forcing their radical curriculum from above. This is why our model legislation, the Partisanship Out of Civics Act, prevents partnership with organizations that lobby for political causes, as well as private funding for curriculum development, curricular materials, and teacher training. Governor DeSantis just took a stand against this sort of encroachment into K-12 education, and we would encourage him to continue his good work and push for Florida’s own Partisanship Out of Civics Act.
Disguised as a bipartisan victory, S.B. 146 promoted partisanship in schools. By vetoing the bill, Governor DeSantis showed his vigilance and commitment to a true civics education. To that we say: Bravo, Governor!
John Sailer is a research associate at the National Association of Scholars.