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DeSantis praises homeschoolers, gets in a dig at Donald Trump during speech


DeSantis praises homeschoolers, gets in a dig at Donald Trump during speech

May 26, 2023 | 1:22 pm ET
By Michael Moline
DeSantis praises homeschoolers, gets in a dig at Donald Trump during speech
Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed a convention of homeschooling parents on May 26, 2023, in Orlando. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Facebook

Gov. Ron DeSantis took a swing at Donald Trump during a speech Friday for daring to suggest that the governor’s battle with The Walt Disney Co. was a mistake.

The former president had posted on his Truth Social platform recently: “DeSanctus is being absolutely destroyed by Disney. His original P.R. plan fizzled, so now he’s going back with a new one in order to save face. Disney’s next move will be the announcement that no more money will be invested in Florida because of the Governor.”

DeSantis, during a speech to a convention of homeschooling parents in Orlando, argued that Disney’s programming presents children with LGBTQ+ content that parents might object to.

DeSantis praises homeschoolers, gets in a dig at Donald Trump during speech
Donald Trump. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“Heck, a lot of these Republicans are out there saying that we should cave to Disney and give them corporate welfare. Not on my watch. That’s not happening,” DeSantis said.

Trump was reacting to Disney’s announcement that it was shelving plans to invest $1 billion in offices in the Orlando area.

DeSantis, a former protégé of the former president, held back from criticizing Trump even as the latter attacked him during the governor’s early campaign maneuvers but since formally entering the primaries has begun hitting back, according to news reports.

Friday’s speech came two days after DeSantis announced his entry into the GOP presidential primary via a glitch-marred Twitter Spaces conversation with Elon Musk. The Orlando event bore all the markers of a campaign rally, including enthusiastic applause as DeSantis discussed his “parents’ rights” policies but press aides promoted it as an official function.

Homeschoolers for freedom

DeSantis praised homeschooling parents Friday for doing their part to inculcate reverence for American principles like freedom — which is a major plank in his presidential campaign platform.

The governor contrasted those principles with “gender ideology,” critical race theory (CRT), and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) efforts he’s doing his best to purge from Florida’s education system, from kindergarten through college.

“What we’re doing, I think, is taking education into our own hands as Floridians,” DeSantis said.

“And you’re doing it as parents in the homeschool movement. We’re doing it in Tallahassee as governor and our Legislature to say, ‘Education is something we gotta get right. You cannot have a society in which the education [system] just totally collapses into a lot of these side issues,” he said.

“Gender ideology has no place in our education system, and we’ve made sure that it doesn’t have a place in Florida. And we have put the kibosh on the use of pronouns — you cannot force a kid to choose pronouns in the state of Florida.

“If that means we have to stand up to a major company like Disney, well, here I stand. I’m not backing down. We run the state of Florida. They do not run the state of Florida.”

Sound government

DeSantis painted sound education as a predicate to sound government.

“Franklin and the Founders understood that you could have the best constitution in the world, you could have the best Declaration of Independence in the world — these things do not run on autopilot. They require citizens to be dedicated to constitutional principles and be dedicated to the cause of freedom. And that may mean you put on the uniform of your country like I have and go and serve overseas — and many people have given the last full measure of devotion in service to our country,” he said.

“It may just mean that you’re engaged in your community as a parent taking an interest in your kids’ education, taking an interest in school board. There’s a whole host of ways that you can uphold these core principles.

“I believe the survival of the American experiment requires a revival of true American principles. You are part of that revival. You give us hope that our next generation will carry the torch of freedom.”

‘Grounded in truth’

DeSantis also lashed out at allowing transgender women to compete against cis-women in athletic competitions and praised recent legislation banning gender-confirming therapies for minors. “We’ve got to be grounded in truth,” he said.

Florida has passed laws forbidding use of public bathrooms and changing facilities by transgender people unless they correspond to their sex at birth. The state also has cut off support for such care for adults on Medicaid.

DeSantis also described his takeover of New College of Florida, a well-respected public liberal arts college in Sarasota.

“It was almost like a commune. It was left of the left, all about ideology, critical race theory, all gender theory, all this other stuff. It was supposed to be under Florida statutes the top honors college in Florida, but it wasn’t fulfilling that function. Enrollment was low,” he asserted.

“So, we made the decision, ‘OK, I’m going to put people on the board there that are going to right this ship.’ So, I appointed seven conservative members to the board of trustees. They came in, they relieved the president of her duties. They put in a conservative president. They eliminated DEI and CRT at the university. (One trustee was not confirmed by the Florida Senate earlier this month, but DeSantis quickly brought in a replacement.)

“And they reformulated the mission statement to say that New College would be the top publicly funded classical liberal arts college in America, similar to, like, Hillsdale College and some of these other places.”

Hillsdale is a small but influential nonsectarian Christian college in Michigan that has been promulgating the lesson that the United States is “an exceptionally good country” in part, through a series of charter schools. One of DeSantis’ New College trustees is Matthew Spalding, a professor at Hillsdale.