Updated: Nov 9
A new bill signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis went into effect in late July, banning Florida schools from allocating funding to diversity, equality, and inclusion programs (DEI programs), while authorizing teachers to utilize a new online teaching tool, PragerU, for students K-12 as of this school year.
Adding to Governor DeSantis’s campaign to upend the education system in the state, the new bill joins the S.T.O.P Woke Act and the Don’t Say Gay Bill of last year, as well as the Florida Education Equality Act that passed earlier this year.
The bill seeks to target, what Governor DeSantis has referred to as “woke indoctrination” or “woke culture”, within postsecondary institutions. It affectively eliminates all DEI programming, all general education courses cannot “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics”, including the teaching of Critical Race Theory, while moving more conservative teaching tools to the forefront.
However, DeSantis’ repeated comments pushing for “education not indoctrination” within Florida schools has gone against many of the statements made by Conservative Radio Host, Dennis Prager the founder of, the new teaching tool being implemented.
Prager has stated publicly that “the content is meant to indoctrinate, showcasing pro-American, Judeo-Christian values”, although, the official PragerU website reads that the service functions to “promote American values through the creative use of educational videos… and offers a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education”.
PragerU is not an accredited university but a free online learning tool, similar to the platform BrainPOP, that has been used in schools for a number of years. However, BrainPOP maintains a pay wall, which a teacher would have to bypass for a student to gain access. Whereas anyone has access to PragerU and can watch, interact with, and download supplemental teaching materials.
Several of the videos have been shared widely across social media platforms, going viral on applications like TikTok. In a video speaking with Christopher Columbus, one viewer commented “comparing religious sacrifice to slavery is crazy”, while another commented on the video’s accountability asking, “why are the options slavery or death?”.
One video titled, Leo & Layla Meet Fredrick Douglas, in which characters, Leo and Layla go back in time to discuss abolitionism with the former slave and abolitionist, claims that “our founding fathers knew that slavery was evil and wrong … but [they] made a compromise to achieve something great, the making of the United States.” The video also makes further claims that “slavery was part of life all over the world, and it was America that began the conversation to end it.”
This goes along with Governor DeSantis’s push “to develop or adopt a curriculum to inspire future generations through motivating stories of American history that demonstrate important life skills and the principles of individual freedom that enabled persons to prosper even in the most difficult circumstances… known as "Stories of Inspiration", as stated in 2022’s Stop Woke Act.
PragerU also maintains content explaining different ideologies and philosophies. Who needs feminism? is one of these videos and is hosted by conservative author and podcaster, Andrew Klavan. Klavan is a self-proclaimed anti-feminist and begins the video by saying that “feminism is a mean spirited, small-minded, and oppressive philosophy, that can poison the relations between the sexes”.
Teachers are conflicted over this rapid curriculum changes and implementation of these new classroom guidelines, that have been an adjustment over the last few years. “I would say that across-the-board people are very very unhappy but I think with good reason because not every county is as well-oiled as Hillsborough county,” a 2nd grade Hillsborough County School District Teacher told LNT, “they don’t have the systems in place to reinsure that when things change, the student’s best interest will still be at heart.”
The Hillsborough County School District is the 7th largest school district in the nation and the 3rd largest in the state of Florida, regionally serving urban, suburban, and rural areas. The teacher informed LNT that the school that they teach at is title 1 and part of Florida’s HCPS Transformation Network, that affords the school focused support and resources from the state based on performance data. However, not all schools in the district receive the same support, and with schools in higher income areas, the expectation is that those communities will make for up it in contributions, donations, and fundraising, the teacher informed LNT.
Within the last four years that this teacher has been working within the Hillsborough district, they informed LNT that their curriculum as well as their phonics instruction has changed three times under the Florida B.E.S.T. Standards. Although, they noted that teachers were obligated to scan their classroom libraries for approval against an approved list of reading materials. Students were not permitted to read from the classroom libraries until approved, at the consequence of the teacher if the guideline was not followed.
“It’s changed so much that it doesn’t make me want to teach” said Pearl Reberkenny, a senior at USF St. Petersburg, studying Elementary Education. Reberkenny told LNT that she was concerned with the challenges she would face entering the field in Florida as well as the educational experience children will receive going through the Florida education system.
“I know for a fact over Covid a lot of teachers have left, that was a really big issue for everyone in the country, and I think adding things like the Don’t Say gay Bill and implementing standards with books, taking out ones that might have controversial opinions, - what have you - is not making it a fun learning experience,” said Reberkenny.
Further charges may be around the corner for the Florida Education System as a proposal to raise cut-off scores for the state’s progress assessments was presented to the Florida State Committee.
By Dillin Bett