DeSantis signs bill banning funding for diversity programs at Florida public colleges

 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning all state funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in the state's universities on Monday.

DeSantis signed the legislation, SB 266, on the campus of the New College of Florida, an institution he has made drastic changes to this year. SB 266 prevents any public university from using state funding to pay for DEI programs, and it also grants university presidents more authority over hiring practices.

The bill is DeSantis' latest offensive against what he calls "woke" influences on education. Recent years have also seen him pass legislation granting parents more authority over their children's education in elementary, middle, and high school.

The Republican governor's action comes as part of a larger national movement pushing for education reform. That push gained momentum in Virginia's gubernatorial election in 2021 when parents revolted against the lack of transparency in the state's schools and its emphasis on critical race theory.

DeSantis speech

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning public universities from using state funds to pay for diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

DeSantis is using New College of Florida, based in Sarasota, as a template for reforming the state's public universities. His administration stated they want to make the college more like Michigan's Hillsdale College, a private liberal arts school.

"Our hope is that New College of Florida will become Florida's classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South," Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said in January when DeSantis began making changes at the institution.

DeSantis, supporters

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has singed multiple pieces of legislation aimed at reforming Florida's education system. (Twitter/Ron DeSantis)

DeSantis touted his changes to New College during a speech on Monday, saying his effort to de-emphasize DEI and CRT in the institution was attracting faculty from across the country.

"There's a lot of interest in faculty around the country, and not conservative faculty, [but] across the board, because I think there's a recognition that this whole framework has been very intellectually oppressive," DeSantis said. "People feel like they're walking on eggshells…. That's not a healthy environment. They don't believe that they have the freedom to speak their minds on a lot of these university campuses."

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, R, with Disney in the background

DeSantis' efforts to reform education brought him into conflict with Disney, a major player in Florida politics. (Fox News)

In addition to Monday's funding ban, DeSantis also signed a bill banning public universities from requiring students and faculty to provide "diversity statements" in order to be admitted or hired. Such statements typically are meant to demonstrate how an applicant's experiences would help make a campus more diverse and inclusive.

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