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Black lawmakers seek changes to Florida education standards

Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, is chairwoman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.
Florida House of Representatives
Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, is chairwoman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.

Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus are asking state education officials to revise new African-American history standards that were approved last week.

The standards have drawn criticism from the White House and prompted a defense from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The state Board of Education gave the new standards, designed to guide lessons from kindergarten through high school, the green light on July 19.

The wide-ranging guidelines require instruction for students in early grades about important historical figures, for example.

Instruction for older students would include things such as lessons on African Americans’ contributions to things such as science, poetry, politics and literature.

But criticism of the standards focuses largely on part of the middle-school standards that would require instruction to include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, who is chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, released a statement Friday that accompanied a letter urging DeSantis and state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz to revise the standards.

“Our request is simple; stop playing partisan politics with the futures of Florida’s children. To say that the enslaved Americans of our past somehow benefited from their violent exploiters without acknowledging the millions that never knew the freedom of autonomy over their own bodies, lives, and futures is shameful and disgusting,” Hart said.

Meanwhile, DeSantis has defended the standards while traveling around the country as he campaigns for president.

In a video clip posted on Twitter by First Lady Casey DeSantis, the governor said the standards “makes it very clear about the injustices of slavery in vivid detail.”

DeSantis also has disputed Vice President Kamala Harris’ criticisms of the standards.

Harris visited Jacksonville last week, where she said “extremist so-called leaders” in Florida are pushing “propaganda to our children.”

Diaz also has defended the standards.

In a letter to school district superintendents Wednesday, Diaz said that “we are not turning our backs on the great work of the African American History workgroup,” which helped craft the standards.

“We will implement these standards swiftly, transparently, and honestly,” Diaz wrote.

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News Service of Florida