Ron DeSanti’s ‘scary’ actions will ‘exacerbate’ teacher shortage: educators

Karla Hernández, teacher and president of United Teachers of Dade, warned Sunday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent decision to reject the Advanced Placement (AP) course in African American studies will “exacerbate” an existing teacher shortage.

“Teachers want to teach with autonomy and authenticity, and so they want to be able to teach real and true history, but we see that they’re also criminalizing teachers,” Hernández said on MSNBC The Katie Phang Show.

She added: “They ban books, now the teachers can be fined for books they have in their classrooms. These are really scary moments in the state of Florida… We know there’s a massive teacher shortage with 5,000 open positions in the state and that’s only going to exacerbate that because no one wants to go into a profession that doesn’t have promotion.”

Hernández was referring to the 5,300 open positions for Florida public school teachers in January, which is more than double the number two years ago, according to the state’s teachers’ union Orlando Sentinel reported earlier this month.

As the state continues to struggle with teacher shortages, the DeSantis administration blocked a new AP African American college course for high school students, prompting nationwide criticism. The course was rejected due to content issues, according to a letter from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Articulation sent to the college board, which oversees the AP exams.

“As it stands, the College Board’s AP African American Studies course lacks educational value and violates Florida law,” said Cassandra Palelis, press secretary for the Florida Department of Education news week earlier this month. “If the course meets the requirements and contains historically accurate content, the Ministry will reopen the discussion.”

DeSantis said the original course “promoted an agenda” while the state proposed removing lessons flagged by Florida officials, such as content on Black queer studies, activism and intersectionality, and advocating redress, according to Politico.

The College Board told Politico last Thursday that no states or districts have seen the “official framework,” which is due to be released Feb. 1, and could include possible coursework changes.

Ron DeSanti's'scary' actions will'exacerbate' teacher shortage
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Florida Republican, is seen in Las Vegas on November 19, 2022. Karla Hernández, teacher and president of United Teachers of Dade, warned Sunday that the DeSantis administration’s recent decision to reject the Advanced Placement (AP) course in African American studies will “exacerbate” an existing teacher shortage.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The course was part of a pilot program in 60 schools across the country and is in the development phase, with “hundreds of additional schools” expected to be added between 2023 and 2024, according to an AP program information page.

A page on “course development” mentioned that courses “typically go through a two to six year development process before being introduced into classrooms”, with development committees set up to “determine the overall content and skill level of each exam”.

Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis assistant press secretary, defended the decision to reject the course, saying its current form lacked “historical accuracy” and “educational value.”

“As presented, the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow,” Redfern said news week earlier this month. “As Governor DeSantis said, our classrooms will be places of education, not indoctrination.”

Still, Hernández said Sunday that the move was not good for the state, adding that the Florida Department of Education would be “weaponized.”

“We certainly know that there are parents, students and teachers alike who are really upset with how this is being glossed over, how they’re taking away content,” she said.

Others were also outraged by the move, including Tariq Nasheed, a film producer and writer, who made the decision an “anti-black stunt”. Meanwhile, Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, wrote on Twitter: “Florida has gone from Don’t Say Gay to Don’t Say Black.”

news week reached out to the College Board, the Florida Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers for comment. Ron DeSanti’s ‘scary’ actions will ‘exacerbate’ teacher shortage: educators

Rick Schindler

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