Although Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has seen his 2024 presidential bid stall in recent weeks, many of his state-level policies continue to resonate with social conservatives across the state and beyond.
One notable example involves his administration’s backing of a public school curriculum that prohibits controversial historical claims about the United States.
Of course, many leftist critics have attempted to portray the move as somehow racist, prompting DeSantis to speak out in defense of the program.
Among those who have castigated the new curriculum is Vice President Kamala Harris, who did so during a recent trip to the state. Citing one passage in the statewide education program affirming that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” Harris claimed that “in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”
While the vice president’s rhetoric was roundly denounced by many on the right, some of DeSantis’ GOP rivals used the criticism in an effort to score political points.
U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), a supporter of early GOP primary front-runner Donald Trump, offered a mixed review of the state educational standards, calling them “good, robust, & accurate” in a tweet that also took aim at the passage referenced by Harris.
“That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted,” he continued. “That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that [the Florida Department of Education] will correct this.”
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. defended the curriculum against federal backlash, writing in response to Donalds’ tweet that it is “based on truth” and does not need to be amended.
The federal government won’t dictate Florida’s education standards.
This new curriculum is based on truth.
We will not back down from teaching our nation’s true history at the behest of a woke @WhiteHouse, nor at the behest of a supposedly conservative congressman. https://t.co/UOypM5tSJx pic.twitter.com/Npz022qBwe
— Manny Diaz Jr. (@CommMannyDiazJr) July 26, 2023
Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX), also a Trump supporter, offered a harsher assessment of the DeSantis plan, prompting widespread backlash from fellow Republicans — including DeSantis press secretary Jeremy Redfern, who used the opportunity to provide a rebuttal by the co-creator of the controversial curriculum.
DeSantis took aim at Florida Republicans like Donalds who have echoed Biden administration talking points, asserting: “Floridians should stand up for Florida. Don’t side with Kamala Harris.”