A Florida House of Representatives bill promoting patriotic education passed unanimously on April 1, 2021. HB-5, a bill cited as the “Portraits in Patriotism Act,” passed with 115 yeas and 0 nays.
HB-5 was filed by Representative Ardian Zika (R) and proposes amending Florida Statutes in Title 48, Chapter 1003 (Public K-12 Education), particularly sections 1003.4282 (Requirements for standard high school diploma) and 1003.44 (Patriotic programs). To earn a high school diploma in Florida, students are required to complete three social studies credits.
HB-5 will require these three social studies credits to “include a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”
Chris Sprawls, the Florida House Speaker, endorsing the legislation in March, noted that students “need to understand what happens to victims of communism, what happened in the Holocaust,” by hearing it from survivors of these atrocities. These personal stories would become available to students through a provision on the bill that requires the Department of Education to “curate oral history resources to be used along with education curriculum.”
The patriotic programs section is meant to “prepare students to be civically responsible and knowledgeable adults.” It is intended to develop an understanding on becoming “an upright and desirable citizenry that recognizes and accepts responsibility for preserving and defending the blessings of liberty inherited from prior generations and secured by the United States Constitution.”
The Bill Analysis conducted by the House notes its roots extending from an executive order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in January 2019. Executive Order 19-32 expressed a “commitment to eliminating common core, ensuring high-quality academic standards and raising the bar for civic literacy.” DeSantis’ executive order predates that of President Trump’s, which he signed on November 2020, and was intended to “restore Patriotic Education.”
The bill faced some resistance by some members of the House. Representative Angela Nixon (D) said at the April 1, 2021 House Session, “I think it is really important that we start addressing atrocities that have happened with the history and the founding of this country.” Representative Anna Eskamani (D) noted she agreed with Nixon and added she was previously advised that the bill was not about U.S. History but about civics. To which Eskamani said, “You can’t talk about civics unless you talk about history.” Both, Nixon and Eskamani, nevertheless approved the bill. On April 8, 2021, the bill was referred to appropriations in the Florida Senate under SJ-409.