SARASOTA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis was at the New College of Florida in Sarasota to sign education bills — including two to continue to stand against the so-called “woke agenda” — with conservative activist Christopher Rufo by his side.
DeSantis signed SB 266 and HB 931 to restrict the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI programs, at Florida’s public colleges and universities in his effort to prevent “dangerous” political and social activism.
“Treat people as individuals,” DeSantis said adding DEI tries “to divvy” up students “based on any type of superficial characteristics.”
DeSantis has also signed bills to empower the Florida Department of Education to fight against what conservative Republicans perceive as “indoctrination” or “woke.”
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. supports DeSantis’s efforts to restrict education on sexual orientation, gender identity, and critical race theory, and to allow parents to challenge books.
“If you want to do things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley, go to some of these other places, that’s fine,” DeSantis said.
Rufo, 38, is best known for his opposition to critical race theory as “an existential threat” and the “default ideology” of the federal “bureaucracy” that has “intimidated” conservatives.
“This is the most significant higher education reform,” Rufo said about the new Florida laws.
DeSantis said Rufo stood against DEI as having no place in public education because it is discriminatory. He said defunding it is important to invest in science, technology, engineering, and math instead.
“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for ‘discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,’ and that has no place in our public institutions,” DeSantis said to enthusiastic applause inside amid a loud protest outside.
Another bill DeSantis signed into law was SB 240 to fund expanding work-based learning opportunities with links to local industry. The bill provides $100 million for the Workforce Development Capitalization incentive grant program for schools.
Attorney Adam Steinbaugh, of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, was among the critics who view the new Florida laws as an expansion of the Stop WOKE Act.
“Florida’s universities should be places open to the free exchange of ideas,” Steinbaugh said in a statement. “When lawmakers start voting ideas off the table, no idea is safe from censorship. "
Watch DeSantis’s speech
Watch Rufo’s speech