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Students are the Victims of DeSantis's Education War in Florida

Empty bookshelves in classrooms. Teachers afraid to display rainbow flags. School board members subjected to ideological purity tests. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s ongoing assaults on the K-12 education system provide a look not just at what is becoming a statewide dystopia for those of us who live here but also at how he would lead the nation.

DeSantis, who is expected to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, has revealed himself as a politician with no coherent policy. His popularity rests on heaping abuse on anyone he considers a threat to his supremacy among educators, children, and parents—deflecting from the real problems of a struggling school system. His war on education is transforming what is taught and how it is taught while dividing communities and endangering already vulnerable students. The hate he incites is spreading beyond the classroom and will almost certainly grow beyond his control.

Stephanie Williams, a University of South Florida political scientist, called the governor’s “process” an “appeal to radicalism.” Teachers, librarians, parents, and even some Republican strategists echo the sentiment. “There was a third of the [Republican] party that was extremist and unafraid to admit it,” retired GOP campaign strategist Mac Stipanovich told one news outlet. “We exploited that third. We promised them things that we never were going to give them in order to have their votes on Election Day.”


The symptoms of DeSantis’s state leadership are visible at school board meetings, where people, often not locals, arrive early to form lines with lawn chairs, as if it’s a sporting event. They wait for hours for the chance to yell at local officials about books and masks, spurred on by a belief that an erosion of “moral values” signals an educational apocalypse.

September 2021 plea from the National School Boards Association asked the federal government to step in to protect board members from abuse. In October of that same year, about nine adults brought children to stand outside Sarasota School Board Chair Shirley Brown’s house holding signs that read “tyrant” and “child abuse” and yelling through a bullhorn, demanding that she resign. One man wore a shirt related to the Proud Boys, a hate group involved in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.

Meanwhile, teachers with decades of experience and investment in the school system must stand by and watch as school boards collapse beneath the barrage. “It’s the hecklers’ veto,” said Alex Ingram, a high school teacher from Jacksonville’s Duval County. Ingram, 35, grew up in Jacksonville and has taught civics, AP American government, and African American studies in the same public school system that he attended as a kid. “You’re empowering and responding to, like, bullies and terrorists,” Ingram explained to us. “These are the same people that are calling teachers pedophiles and ‘groomers.’”

Read entire article at The Nation