(The Center Square) – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law three pieces of legislation on Monday including one that bans the expenditure of taxpayer funds on critical race theory, along with diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the state’s institutions of higher education.
The other bills DeSantis signed includes one to protect faculty from politically-related “loyalty tests” and another that will provide tax credits for companies that employ apprentices.
DeSantis noted that Florida is number one in the U.S for the lowest tuition and fees, adding that the cost of higher education has risen significantly over the past few decades, particularly private universities.
“You shouldn’t have to mortgage your entire life’s future, just to be able to obtain higher education, so we have put out money where our mouth is on that,” DeSantis said.
According to DeSantis, Florida is also second in the country for two-year graduation rates and fourth for four-year graduation rates, adding that he believes the state should provide quality education, but at an affordable price.
“We want degrees and pathways to lead to students being able to do well in their future endeavors.” DeSantis said, adding that there have not been any tuition increases for colleges and universities in Florida for 10 years.
DeSantis pointed out that Florida is ranked number one for attracting and developing talent, and because of this the best interests of Florida should be reflected in the state’s higher education system.
Senate Bill 266 sponsored by Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, revises the duties of the Board of Governors and requires an annual report of certain research expenditures. The bill also prohibits educational institutions from spending funds for certain purposes, like critical race theory, diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and social or political activism as defined by the rules of the State Board of Education.
Under SB 266, state colleges and universities will be required to have a curriculum that is aligned with the U.S. Constitution. Tenured professors can also be reviewed and must meet certain requirements. DeSantis noted that the biggest cost and deadweight to higher education institutions is unproductive tenured faculty.
House Bill 931 sponsored by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, and establishes further measures to keep accountability in how institutions are being managed and prohibits potential staff from having to undergo political “loyalty” tests.
SB 240 authored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R- Palm Coast, provides tax credits for eligible businesses that employ an apprentice or pre-apprentice under certain conditions and gives certain employers the ability to apply for reimbursement of wages paid to students.
DeSantis noted that the most important thing that he and the Legislature have been trying to achieve is having students ready for the workforce once they have finished their studies, and have been exposed to all sorts of different ways of thinking.
“We believe that a good education is gonna expose you to a lot of different ideas, you should have your assumptions challenged about how you see certain issues, that’s a healthy thing,” DeSantis said.