All but five of the school board candidates endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won or advanced to the second round of their primaries on Tuesday, continuing the Republican’s crusade against ‘revival’ in schools then that he seeks to build a base of local allies.
A total of 25 of the 30 candidates backed by DeSantis and his 1776 draft PAC in the traditionally nonpartisan primaries were victorious, according to media reports.
“We will never, ever surrender to the woke agenda. Florida is the state where the revival is going to die,” DeSantis said on election night, using a term the right has adopted to deride inclusion efforts.
With Florida Republicans behind him, DeSantis — who didn’t have a primary this week but will face Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in November — has poured thousands of dollars into normally sleepy, apolitical races for positions that determine how whose schools are governed in some of Florida. larger counties.
DeSantis even managed to shift school boards in some counties from left to conservative, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
Candidates aligned with DeSantis focused on parental rights and transparency, while Democrats cited challenges recruiting and retaining educators in an increasingly hostile teaching environment.
“Sarasota County – WE did it!!!” tweeted Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota School Board member endorsed by DeSantis. His campaign materials say Ziegler is for eliminating “indoctrination” and banning “critical race theory.” “The community has spoken and it’s crystal clear,” she wrote. “They are asking for a school board reset. And that’s what they’re going to get.
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz Sr. on Tuesday lambasted DeSantis for making school board races “new political battlegrounds.”
The governor’s aggressive crackdown on public schools has focused heavily on restricting how children are taught about gender, race and history. He has faced a wave of criticism for his Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill by critics, which bans classroom discussions about gender identity and sexuality.
Complementary legislation, the Stop WOKE Act, was stopped by a judge last week amid challenges to the constitutionality of the ban on discussing race in business and educational settings. The law, which targets diversity and inclusion trainings, aims to ban thorny discussions about race and privilege. A judge called it unacceptably vague and accused the state of “muzzling its opponents.” The state is appealing.
It’s no secret that DeSantis, sitting on a $132 million war chest, plans to run for president in 2024. As one of the GOP’s greatest culture warriors, DeSantis made “parental rights” a primary focus, a tactic that worked for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin last year. Florida, meanwhile, is facing a severe teacher shortage. To compensate, the Florida Department of Education launched a program last month allowing military veterans to teach without a degree.
Andrea Mercado, executive director of Florida Rising, a progressive nonprofit, cursed DeSantis as having “learned from Trump how to exploit extremism in headlines and fundraising for his own career.” She encouraged progressives to vote to keep DeSantis “out of the Oval Office in 2024, and to build justice on every block with local elections.”