A new bill proposed by a Florida House Republican will grant Gov. Ron DeSantis increased influence over Florida’s higher education system and shape school curriculum to better align it with what the state deems as a more historically justified picture of the United States.
House bill 999 is the latest legislative effort to combat what the governor believes is higher education’s continued agenda “to impose ideological conformity, to try to promote political activism.”
State authority over education
The board of trustees at each school would be responsible for all faculty hiring under House bill 999, which grants DeSantis direct influence over the state’s public higher education system’s operations. The governor is responsible for hand-picking six of the board’s seats, and virtually another five since the Board of Governors is largely molded by the governor as well.
The most recent DeSantis-backed board of trustees ousted its president in an effort to create a more conservative-leaning, Christian-valued institution emulating Hillsdale college in Michigan.
If passed, House bill 999 – which will allow a faculty member’s tenure to be reviewed “at any time” – could potentially weave itself into two other proposed legislative efforts that some current faculty fear chills speech. The notorious “Stop WOKE Act” would reprimand faculty for curriculum that inflicts shame or anguish, such as systemic racism. Regulation 10.003 proposed by the Board of Governors would assess a tenured faculty member based on their compliance to state law (such as the “Stop WOKE Act”) and without input from other tenured faculty.
The “Stop WOKE Act” House bill is under appeal and passage of regulation 10.003 awaits decision still. Although nothing is certain, its implications are huge.
Despite possible punishment, some faculty are determined to continue their curriculum as long as they can.
“I just decided, ‘I’m not going to run from it.’ This is what I teach. This is what I study. There’s tremendous value in students learning about these things,” said UCF professor Jonathan Cox to ProPublica.
Down with DEI
The bill also eliminates any majors and minors focused on critical race theory, gender studies, intersectionality, or any other “derivative” major or minor that espouses discrimination of any kind.
After probing into its state college and university spending on all DEI-related initiatives and promising to effectively ban them, House bill 999 will officially prohibit all spending, save those geared toward Pell Grant recipients, first-generation college students, and military veterans.
Setting the historical record straight
The bill asserts that the state’s general education courses cannot define “American history as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” and any that imply a different narrative lens like “identity politics,” such as “Critical Race Theory” is not allowed.
A new school metric used to evaluate a college or university’s performance will scrutinize students’ “education for citizenship of the constitutional republic,” though how to quantify that remained undefined.
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