Florida’s denial of AP African American Studies is a denial of school choice

Right in the middle of National School Choice Week, conservative politicians and regulators in Florida are fighting against introducing black history classes that would help high school students earn college credits. Florida conservatives are telling families who support school choice that they can’t even choose their children’s grades.

The College Board is a nonprofit organization that administers college entrance exams and develops Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students that earn them college credit. They have developed a pilot program for an African-American studies class that they plan to launch in 60 schools across the US during the next school year. They intended for a school in Florida to offer the class. They hope to begin offering classes in all high schools by the 2024-25 school year. and begin administering the exam in the spring of 2025. High school students who pass these exams will earn credits for attending classes.

The Florida Department of Education looked at the class and flatly rejected it, with officials saying it would indoctrinate students with a “political agenda” and had no educational value. Ron Griffin, a press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said: “As noted, the exchange rate 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.”

Well, it’s a history class, after all. Once you get past the names and dates, history studies political agendas and ideology. Certainly, that should be the case for a black history class in America.

Last year, Florida passed the Stop WOKE Act, which attempts to censor the way schools and even private businesses teach about race, banning the inclusion of various ideas associated with critical race theory. Multiple parties are challenging the law in court as an unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment. Florida is not doing well. The ban stopped the implementation of the business component of the law. Another injunction halted enforcement of the law against university professors, with one federal judge describing the law as “positively dystopian.”

However, the fragmented law still currently applies to students in secondary education. So while Florida can’t prevent colleges from teaching these concepts, they can prevent high schools from doing so, even if it means denying students potential college credit.

That the law is in tatters and the unconstitutional abridgment of the speech hasn’t stopped Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. basically a Twitter brag to interrupt classes due to violations of this law and list everything that the state does not approve of in classes.

DeSantis says he supports school choice, and indeed signed legislation last year that dramatically expands parents’ ability to choose alternatives to public education for their children. But the choice of school is not only about type school or methods which students are taught. If school choice means anything, it should mean that parents, not politicians and regulators, should decide the type of education their children should receive. If it’s not okay for the Democrats, then it’s not okay for the Republicans either.

No AP classes are required. Parents and students can decide if they want it. DeSantis, Diaz and others in government have no business deciding what is and is not “indoctrination.” If families and students do not want to attend classes, they will not succeed. But I suspect that the problem is not that students do not want to attend classes. You don’t have to ban ideas that they are not popular. The problem is that people want to learn what this course has to offer, progressive orientation and all (The college administration insists that critical race theory is not taught in the class and is still adjusting the course framework).

School choice should be about all families, not just DeSantis fans. When possible, it should apply even to public school students. Let the class succeed or fail based on voluntary enrollment and AP scores, not because politicians and bureaucrats made decisions on behalf of parents and students. This is not just about telling teachers what they are allowed to say. It’s also about telling students what they need to hear.

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