Florida Board of Education authorizes ban on public funding for DEI initiatives in state colleges

by | Jan 18, 2024

The Florida State Board of Education on Wednesday implemented strict regulations to limit the use of public funds for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs, activities, and policies in the Florida College System.

The Florida State Board of Education on Wednesday passed a rule that permanently bars the use of public funds for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in the state’s public college system.

Under the new regulation, DEI programs, activities, or policies that classify individuals based on race, sex, or other demographic factors for differential or preferential treatment will no longer receive state or federal funding. The Board defines these programs as ones that promote differential or preferential treatment based on such classifications.

“Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers’ money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society.”

The State Board of Education also replaced the course “Principles of Sociology” with a new course in American History with the intent to provide an “accurate and factual account of the nation’s past, rather than exposing them to radical woke ideologies,” according to the board.

Civil rights advocates and organizations have expressed concern over the implications of Wednesday’s authorization and other similar measures for educational freedom and diversity. Those in opposition claim that unabated regulation could impact academic freedom and the inclusivity of educational environments.

“We continue to go down a misguided path of censorship in Florida,” attorney Ben Crump said on X.

The Board of Education authorization brings the Florida College System, comprised of 28 public community colleges and state colleges across the state, in line with legislation passed last year. The measure restricted state university spending to “promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities” related to DEI initiatives.

The legislation also interdicted classroom instruction on subject areas that can be categorized as critical race theory (CRT), which is a theoretical framework and intellectual movement that seeks to examine and understand how race and racism intersect within power structures and social institutions.

“In reality, what this concept of DEI has been is an attempt to impose orthodoxy on universities. And not even necessarily in the classroom, but through the administrative apparatus of the university itself, and that manifests itself in a number of different ways. This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis last May upon the bill’s signing.

As DEI entered the political lexicon last year, the Executive Office of the Governor shared reported budget expenditures at state universities on DEI programs with The Capitolist, which concluded that spending at several Florida schools was “significantly misreported” and “shockingly wasteful,” in the words of the governor. The summary came after state officials announced that all State University System members were required to report expenditures and resources utilized for campus activities related to DEI and CRT.

“What was reported revealed an extraordinary misuse of taxpayer dollars to promote a political agenda at the expense of academic focus,” DeSantis’ Press Secretary at the time Bryan Griffin said.

Numbers from the initial audits reflect that with approximately $3.4 million coming from the state, the University of Florida reported spending $5.3 million on diversity-related initiatives and costs, while 43 staff roles associated with the initiatives were also detailed by the institution.

Meanwhile, at the University of Central Florida, roughly $4.5 million was spent on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs and expenses, reporting $2.3 million of the total as subsidized by state funding.

The University of South Florida documented spending around $1.2 million on its Diversity and Inclusion Office, with $1.13 million of the expenditure coming from state sources.

Florida Atlantic University spent approximately $904,000 on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, including any additional expenses, with close to $643,000 coming from the state.


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