DeSantis picks fight with College Board

Extending an ongoing battle, he suggested Florida may end its participation in the SAT.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden listen to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speak as they arrive to tour an area impacted by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. Casey DeSantis the wife of the governor listens at left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) extended a battle with the group that creates Advanced Placement courses for high schools on Monday, suggesting his state may end participation in the country’s most widely used college admissions test over curriculum he dubbed “neo-marxist.”

Speaking at a news conference in Naples, Fla., DeSantis said the state Department of Education rejected the College Board’s AP course on African American history because it amounted to “indoctrination.”

DeSantis said he had spoken with state House Speaker Paul Renner (R) about the College Board’s other major product, the SAT.

“This College Board, like, nobody elected them to anything. They’re just kind of there providing a service. So you can either utilize those services or not,” DeSantis said. “You know, there are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better.”

The College Board is a nonprofit organization based in New York City, originally founded more than a century ago to create standards in higher education admissions. It offers about three dozen AP classes that high school students can take to earn college credit.

The newest of those offerings, the course in African American history, became the latest target in DeSantis’s bid to end “woke” policies he opposes. DeSantis objected to the inclusion of queer theory and intersectionality within the larger course, which the Department of Education said violated a law he signed last year barring instruction in critical race theory.

In a blistering statement released over the weekend, the College Board said it stood by the African American Studies program.

“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value.’ Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field,” the College Board said.

The group said it had not been in negotiations with the Florida Department of Education over modifications to the course. Instead, the College Board said they had been notified in September — in a letter that misspelled the word “African” — that the Department of Education had rejected the course.

The letter containing the rejection and subsequent followup phone calls were “absent of substance,” the College Board said. In a letter sent last week, the Florida Department of Education thanked the College Board for removing 19 topics from the African American Studies course — none of which the Department asked for, and many of which remain in the curriculum, the College Board said.

In the last several years, DeSantis has risen to prominence through a crusade against what he calls a liberal agenda in education, culture and even finance — the event in Naples was meant to roll out his proposal to ban an investment practice that takes into account environmental, social and corporate governance policies.

DeSantis has not been shy in using his authority to punish those who oppose him. Last week, the legislature gave final approval to a measure dissolving a special taxing district maintained by Disney. That came after the company spoke out against another education law DeSantis signed last year that restricted classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, which critics dubbed the “don’t say gay” law.

Under that bill, a new taxing district will be guided by DeSantis appointees.

On Monday, DeSantis suggested that the fight with the College Board could escalate to include the SAT, the college admissions test that most American high school students take. Applicants to Florida universities currently must take either the SAT or a rival, the ACT. DeSantis also said high school students might have options to earn college credit besides AP classes.

“The legislature’s going to look to re-evaluate how Florida’s doing that,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to evaluate how all that process goes.”