Inside the DeSantis Freedom Blueprint education conference

by | Dec 20, 2022

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis provided a sneak peek at his 2023 education agenda during a “Freedom Blueprint” event in Orlando Monday
  • The event featured a number of conservative education experts who addressed a crowd of school board members and education professionals
  • DeSantis made it clear he would support another attempt to pass paycheck protection for school teachers, a move that will be staunchly opposed by the teacher’s union
  • The paycheck protection measure could be paired with a teacher pay raise

During an invitation-only event designed to expand a conservative foothold on school boards won in November, Governor Ron DeSantis played host on Monday to a group of about 150-200 people in Orlando. The “Freedom Blueprint” event featured a variety of speakers, including DeSantis, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, former education commissioner Richard Corcoran, current commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., and a handful of other experts.

The attendees included most of the school board candidates DeSantis endorsed in 2022, plus others from across the state. Topics included a presentation by Corcoran and Diaz entitled “A Student First Approach to the Powers of the School Board, which included a look at Florida’s public education law and funding.

DeSantis Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly spoke on “Enacting the DeSantis Education Agenda at the Local Level,” while Mom’s for Liberty co-founders Tiffany Justice, Tina Descovich and Bridget Ziegler presented attendees with “A Parents’ Rights Approach to Policy: Empowering Parents via the Application of Florida Law.”

The event also included other experts who advised attendees on how to navigate union issues, media narratives, and the political environment.

DeSantis, however, made headlines of his own at the event, outlining his plans for the next two years, which included a call for paycheck protection for Florida teachers. The paycheck protection initiative seeks to block automatic deduction of union dues from teacher’s paychecks. DeSantis specifically said he wanted government out of the bill collector role for union dues. Under current law, Florida workers, including teachers, can opt out of joining their union, but if te4achers don’t opt out, their union dues are automatically deducted from their paychecks.

“We don’t want to play a role in deducting anybody’s money, so you write [your check] every month for the dues and you do it that way,” DeSantis said. “It’s more of a guarantee that the money is actually going to go to teachers and not be frittered away by interest groups who get involved in the school system.”

DeSantis said his political committee spent around $2 million to boost the election prospects of school-board candidates in this year’s elections. He also noted that his political organization enlisted the support of over 1 million mothers who were motivated by Florida’s push to expand parental rights.

“We ended up with 1.1 million mamas signed up. We included grandmas in that too,” DeSantis explained to laughter from the crowd. “You have to, because we’re in Florida. So it wasn’t as if it was 1.1 million that all had kids in school right now, but it was 1.1 million mamas who were signing up because they cared about these issues affecting our school system.”

DeSantis endorsed 30 conservative school-board candidates across the state, but also aided others with less overt support. In several areas, the 2022 election swung the political makeup of school boards to create conservative majorities.


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