In November, three superintendents were purged from Florida public school districts by conservative school boards with ties to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
Educators warn the purge is only beginning.
In Brevard and Sarasota Counties, the superintendents left voluntarily–under extreme pressure.
Their only other option was to face a vote on their terminations.
In Broward County, the superintendent was fired through the efforts of five school board members directly appointed by DeSantis.
The three affected districts had enacted mask mandates during the height of the pandemic in opposition to Governor DeSantis' dictate not to adhere to any pandemic protocols. According to conservative leaders, the mask mandates violated parents' rights.
Palm Bay Republican state Representative Randy Fine said:
"We had a wave in school districts that spit in parents’ faces.”
“And now the people who did that are gone.”
During the worst of the pandemic, Rep. Fine fought to punish any schools that enacted mask mandates.
Then in March 2023 Florida passed House bill 1557—the Parental Rights in Education Act. The law stated “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.
This lead to the bill and resulting law being called the "Don't Say Gay" legislation.
DeSantis said in response to conservative school board wins:
"At the end of the day, we're not going to let this state be overrun by woke ideology."
"We will fight the woke in the businesses, we will fight the woke in government agencies, we will fight the woke in our schools."
"We will never, ever surrender to the woke agenda."
"Florida is the state where woke goes to die."
Conservative school boards campaigned on fear, hatredu and rhetoric about Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ+ people grooming children and lingering resentment over mask mandates and other pandemic protocols.
DeSantis endorsed more than two dozen school board candidates during the 2022 election cycleand backed it with $1,000 cash contributions from GOP lawmakers.
Most of DeSantis' candidates won.
They are now targeting any school district leadership that doesn't conform to a conservative vision heavily influenced by White nationalism and Christian nationalism.
These conservative majorities will set policies affecting hundreds of thousands of public school students in Florida.