Although Florida has a stunning teacher shortage—Florida Trend writes that it is “worsening,” with “estimates fearing that vacancies could double by the end of 2022”—DeSantis continues to pressure teachers to push his conservative curriculum, forcing some to leave the profession altogether.
During his time in office, DeSantis, who’s predicted to run for president in 2024, has legislated a “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees,” aka the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which bans teaching critical race theory (CRT). He’s even targeted some math books with claims of “indoctrination” or “exposure to dangerous and divisive concepts.”
As for potential school board candidates, they’re being asked to take DeSantis’ education survey to make sure their views jive with the governor’s right-wing agenda, like rejecting CRT and COVID lockdowns and supporting “Keep Woke Gender Ideology Out of Schools,” to name a few. They’re then asked to take a pledge to “stand with Governor Ron DeSantis.”
Monica Colucci has taught in the Miami-Dade County schools for the past 26 years. In her run for a position on the school board, she raised $53,000, with about $15,000 from state Republicans in May, and in June, she raised another $31,000, Politico reports. Roberto Alonso, another Miami Dade school board candidate endorsed by DeSantis, raked in $1,000 from Republican lawmakers and has raised over $83,000 so far.
Axios reports that candidates April Carney, who has complained incessantly about COVID policies; Fred Lowry, a QAnon conspiracy theorist; and Colucci, who opposed CRT and vows to protect "female athletes and the integrity of female sports," are all described as “pro-parent” and endorsed by DeSantis.
“Suddenly, school board races, which are nonpartisan here in Duval County, typically don’t get a ton of attention. They kind of fly under the radar. But there have been political efforts on both sides of the aisle to get Democrats and Republicans elected. This is a big shift,” Michael Binder, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida, told News-4 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Brevard County school board member Jennifer Jenkins told the Florida Phoenix she feels as if “DeSantis has turned up the fire for that culture war conversation in public education — the nonsense of all-of-a-sudden he’s endorsing school board members, making a nonpartisan race very clearly partisan.”