Governor’s roundtable continues push for higher education changes despite oppositions

Governor Ron DeSantis continues rallying support for some major changes to Florida's higher education system. He held a roundtable discussion with fellow conservatives on Monday, criticizing programs like Critical Race Theory and Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI). 

"It is using the administrative apparatus of the university to impose an ideological agenda," Gov. Desantis said. 

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The governor went after the policies, which he claims are "woke" and ultimately a bad use of millions of dollars. Opponents of Gov. DeSantis said he's demonizing an already marginalized groups of people. 

According to the governor, the state's universities self-reported spending at least $34 million on those programs, and it's money he said would be better spent elsewhere. 

The governor has made battling the so-called woke agenda in education a key part of his political strategy.  He's already touted several bills working through the state legislature, which include expanding school vouchers, expanding parental rights in education and new legislation aimed at doing away with DEI.

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"These bills eliminate DEI and other discriminatory programs," Gov. DeSantis said. 

Among the roundtable speakers was Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and New College of Florida trustee. Rufo has been outspoken, attacking universities for their inclusion programs. 

"What it has become in practice is a vehicle for left wing political activist to hijack public resources and turn university away from the pursuit of knowledge to the pursuit of their own private interests," Rufo said.  

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Meanwhile in Tallahassee, dozens of the governor’s opponents rallied at the Florida capitol to speak out against him, saying his policies have put a target on LGBTQ+ citizens and their families. 

"We show up in moments like this when we know we don’t have the numbers to fight like hell for the health and well-being of the LGBT community," said Orlando Representative Anna Eskamani, a democrat.

Despite the opposition, the governor is expected to sign most – if not all – the education bill that make it to his desk this year.