Teachers who demonstrate excellence in civics education would be eligible for a cash bonus under a plan unveiled by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week. Civics is the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.
“We're all expected to exercise the duties of citizenship,” DeSantis said. “And that of course means voting, but it also means being involved in your community, participating in the political process in some way or another.”
DeSantis' proposed plan would designate $16.5 million to create the Florida Seal of Civics Excellence including a series of mentoring, credentialing programs, and micro certifications, and would reward classroom teachers who earn certifications and take part in “high quality” civics education with a $3,000 cash bonus. The bonus program would be administered under the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), DeSantis said.
Also under the proposal, $17 million would be used to develop civics curricula based on “foundational” concepts and not on critical race theory. Critics say that critical race theory studies the way race and racism influence politics and culture, and assumes that all differences in outcomes are the result of systemic racism.
The theory represents an “unsanctioned” curriculum in Florida's schools, DeSantis said.
“Teaching kids to hate their country and hate each other is not worth one penny of tax money,” he said.
Finally, $6.5 million would be used to develop partnerships between schools and state, county, and local governments in order to promote student interest in public service.
Among the goals for DeSantis' quality in civics education program is the development of a citizenship test to be passed by all graduating seniors in Florida. The test will be equivalent to the one legal immigrants take to become American citizens, he said.
“I do think that this is something that will make a big impact,” DeSantis said. “Having graduating kids with the foundational knowledge to understand what makes America unique - understanding the principles that people have fought for - is really, really important.”
Revenue for the total $106 million civics education-focused agenda is derived from Florida's share of the federal funds awarded to the state under the COVID-19 Relief bill, DeSantis said.