On MidPoint Wednesday, we examined the hostile takeover of Florida public education and all of the new DeSantis education “reforms”– vouchers for all, transforming New College, banning Diversity Equity & Inclusion programs, ending tenure, etc. Noted independent journalist Judd Legum, formerly Editor in Chief of ThinkProgress, now of the SubStack subscription newsletter, popular.info, “News for People Who Give a Damn,” has been closely following what is happening to Florida public education. He joined us by telephone from Washington, D.C. to discuss the current state of Florida public education.
Legum’s reporting on the efforts of Manatee County to ban teachers from curating classroom library books under the threat of felony prosecution prompted an attack by Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. Classroom libraries were not banned, Diaz claimed, but books simply needed to be reviewed and “approved,” under the State’s “Don’t Say Gay” and the “Stop Woke” laws. But, as Legum’s reporting showed, those laws and the Dept. of Education’s own training materials for Florida teachers, appear to limit the application of these laws only to classroom instruction, not to books and libraries, and these laws do not clarify what library books would be subject to sanction or be approved. As Legum reports, now, right-wing activists hostile to Florida teachers are seizing on the opportunity to serve as “reviewers” of library books for Manatee County schools. Calling themselves the “Woke-Busters,” the Manatee County Patriots are seeking volunteers to review books and “SAVE the CHILDREN and OUR SOCIETY.”
New College of Florida’s independence and inclusivity is assailed by conservatives
The hostile takeover of public education by Christian conservative ideologues is patently obvious in the restructuring of Florida’s public honors college, New College of Florida, a small, liberal arts campus in Sarasota founded on principles of diversity, equity and inclusivity with a large queer student population. DeSantis has said that he wants to remake New College in the image of Hillsdale College, a small, private, Christian, conservative college in Michigan. Hillsdale, with strong ties to the former Trump Administration, has been a leader in the right’s fight against public schools. Orlando FL Rep. Anna Eskamani recently attended the New College of Florida Board meeting at which the college President was summarily fired and replaced by DeSantis’ former Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran. Rep. Eskamani gave WMNF’s MidPoint an overview, in an interview recorded on Monday, Feb 6, of what was happening at New College of Florida, and in the legislature, given DeSantis’ priorities to privatize and pillage public education to promote his Presidential aspirations.
You can listen to the show on demand here, from wmnf.org/midpoint or as a WMNF MidPoint podcast wherever you get your podcasts.