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### Speaker at Freedom Institute in Naples, Gov. Ron DeSantis Discusses Education Reform

Gov. Ron DeSantis diverged momentarily from his gubernatorial duties during a speaking engagement in Naples. However, he addressed key topics concerning education and economics that resonate with his core principles.

The governor served as the inaugural guest speaker for a speaker series hosted by The Freedom Institute, a nonprofit organization in Naples dedicated to endorsing homeschooling with a conventional curriculum tailored for students in grades 9-12. Established in August, the institute currently accommodates 50 students.

Welcomed by Naples attorney Tom Grady, one of the school’s founding board members, DeSantis attributed the institute’s establishment to the expanded school choice initiatives and financial constraints elimination that he endorsed into law the previous year.

During his address, which lasted 20 minutes, DeSantis elaborated on the educational reforms he has advocated for, captivating an audience comprising approximately 50 parents, students, and supporters of the Freedom Institute. Subsequently, a question and answer session with Grady ensued.

Notably, the institute operates independently without public funding, setting tuition at $8,400 annually. Chris Marker, the chief learning officer, formerly a principal at Lake Park Elementary and Naples Park Elementary School, highlighted the governor’s efforts in facilitating educational alternatives for parents. The pivotal move was the removal of financial barriers that previously hindered economically disadvantaged families from enrolling their children in institutions like the Freedom Institute or charter schools.

DeSantis underscored the significant strides Florida has taken in expanding educational opportunities for parents, particularly the surge in private scholarships benefiting nearly 400,000 students statewide following the enactment of HB1. He also emphasized the exponential growth in charter school enrollment, which provides public education free from district control or union influence.

Moreover, the governor outlined the state’s substantial investments in enhancing teacher salaries and hinted at further initiatives in the upcoming state budget. Noteworthy points from his address include:

  • Promoting alternative education pathways for non-college-bound students, focusing on vocational training programs like aviation mechanics and welding, with the state presently training 600 commercial drivers annually.
  • Highlighting Florida’s decade-long freeze on college tuition, positioning the state as offering the lowest tuition fees nationwide.
  • Introducing a 50-hour civics curriculum in collaboration with Hillsdale College, incentivizing teachers with a $3,000 bonus upon completion.
  • Discussing Florida’s robust economic performance, with the state budget earning the top ranking among all states by CNBC, and boasting the lowest number of state employees per capita.
  • Implementing a ban on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investment practices within the state pension program.
  • Addressing the emergence of critical race theory (CRT) following George Floyd’s murder, and the state’s prohibition of CRT in K-12 education to uphold the nation’s foundational principles.