Controversial teacher prep bill heads to DeSantis

by | Mar 7, 2024

The Florida Senate approved a controversial bill banning “identity politics” in teacher preparation programs, a move that critics argue could hinder educators’ ability to teach historical realities, while supporters claim it focuses on teaching methods over content.

The Florida Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a measure designed to keep “identity politics” out of teacher preparation programs that lead to educators getting their professional certificates, readying the bill to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 28-12 along party lines to approve the bill (HB 1291) nearly a week after the House passed the measure.

The bill emerged as one of the most controversial education bills of the 2024 legislative session.

Under the bill, teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities would be barred from teaching “identity politics” or include lessons that are “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.”

A House analysis of the measure said that there are 57 “initial” teacher preparation programs in Florida at 10 state universities, 19 state colleges and 28 private colleges and universities. The bill also would apply to preparation programs for prospective school leaders.

The term identity politics is not defined in the measure, which drew questions from Democrats during Senate debate Wednesday.

Outnumbered Democrats in the Senate also gave impassioned arguments against the bill, with some senators arguing that the measure threatens to chill teachers’ speech in the classroom.

“I disagree with the premise that learning about white privilege, learning about systemic racism, learning about diversity is problematic,” Sen. Tina Polsky said.

Numerous critics of the bill also have argued that such restrictions on programs that prepare educators to teach would in turn prevent students from learning the realities of history.

“You can’t celebrate progress if you deny the distance that you’ve had to go to get where you are,” Sen. Geraldine Thompson said.

Senate sponsor Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, argued during debate on the bill Wednesday that teacher preparation programs containing the targeted content are “not teaching empathy, they’re teaching blame. And I think that’s a big distinction.”

Ingoglia also contended that the measure would not make changes to what content students encounter in the classrooms.

“The ability to teach to diverse backgrounds is critically important in getting your message across. This (bill) is about how teachers are taught to teach. Not the content of what they’re teaching,” Ingoglia said before the measure was approved.

A separate provision of the bill also requires that the teacher preparation programs “must afford candidates the opportunity to think critically, achieve mastery of academic program content, learn instructional strategies, and demonstrate competence.”


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