Eliminate diversity programs (HB 999/SB 266)
What it would do: Build on DeSantis’s push to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and critical race theory (CRT) from public education.
The bill would prohibit state universities from spending money on campus diversity programs and instruct them to remove any majors focused on CRT or “radical feminist theory,” among other gender-related subjects. It would also weaken tenure protections for state university professors and encourage universities to promote instruction on Western civilization.
Context to know: The Florida governor is on a quest to eliminate what he calls “woke” left-leaning ideologies from the Sunshine State. And he has repeatedly focused on CRT and DEI initiatives as two signature components. CRT is an academic framework based on the premise that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions. DEI includes initiatives to promote diversity in education and the workplace.
Critics say DeSantis’s “anti-woke” platform is having a chilling effect, compelling teachers and schools to eliminate any instruction or initiative related to race or diversity. DeSantis and his supporters argue DEI and CRT are being used to impose an “ideological agenda.”
Expand universal vouchers (HB 1/SB 202)
What it will do: Dramatically expand the state’s school voucher program by opening it up to all K-12 students regardless of family income. Recipients will be given a taxpayer-funded “scholarship” to pay for the private school of their choice.
Context to know: Few other states offer a universal voucher program. Proponents say it will allow parents to enroll their child in the school they believe is the best fit.
Democratic opponents questioned the program’s cost. A Florida Policy Institute analysis found it will come with a yearly price tag of $4 billion — far more than the state legislature’s estimate.
Status: Signed into law; goes into effect July 1
Expand ‘don’t say gay’ (HB 1223/SB 1320)
What it would do: Prohibit classroom instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in prekindergarten through eighth grade. Currently, the state outlaws any such lessons in kindergarten through third grade.
The proposal would also ban the use of personal pronouns in public schools that do not correspond to a teacher, administrator or student’s sex at birth.
Context to know: DeSantis backed a similar bill covering earlier grades in 2022 that critics dubbed the “don’t say gay” law, arguing it discriminates against LGBTQ students and families. In the year since, the law has been used to justify decisions like banning books that focus on the LGBTQ community and removing “safe space” labels from classrooms.
Even if the new bill doesn’t pass, the law is likely to expand soon to all grade levels. The DeSantis-stacked Board of Education is expected to vote in April on a rule that would bar lessons related to gender identity and sexual orientation through the 12th grade.