Ron DeSantis, Marcus Foundation Help Launch Florida Civics and Debate Initiative

On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the “Florida Civics and Debate Initiative” with the Marcus Foundation for elevating civic knowledge, civic skills and civic disposition for middle and high school students.

The Marcus Foundation has committed $5 million over a three-year period to the Florida Education Foundation to increase students’ access to speech and debate programs. To show support for this initiative the governor has requested $375,000 in his budget proposal to advance this civics and debate initiative.

“Since taking office, my administration has introduced several major initiatives to affirm my commitment to public education in Florida, especially in improving Florida’s K-12 education system,” DeSantis said on Monday. “By offering civic debate, we can better challenge our students to think critically and provide them with the knowledge of our nation’s founding principles and institutions. I hope that this initiative will have a strong impact on classrooms and school campuses across our state as we look to build a bolder, brighter, and better education system in Florida.”

“Thank you to Bernie Marcus and the Marcus Foundation for their generous contribution to the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative,” said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “This funding will empower Florida’s students to improve themselves, their education and their future through the profound impacts of speech and debate programs. Research shows that almost 100 percent of debate students attend college, and debate promotes higher level of student civic participation, creating civically engaged lifelong learners. Governor DeSantis has prioritized civics, and this initiative will be instrumental in providing students with the opportunity to become great citizens that will preserve our constitutional republic for future generations.”

“I have long been a proponent of civics education in the classroom,” said Bernie Marcus, the chairman of the Marcus Foundation. “Every child needs to understand the ideals that our country was founded on. What Florida is doing to bring civics and debate to every student is very innovative and should be a model for the rest of the country. I applaud Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran for their leadership and vision and am glad to be a partner in this effort.”

The Florida Civics and Debate Initiative is expected to:

  • Promote the expansion of middle and high school debate and speech programs to all of Florida’s public school districts;
  • Increase middle school civics end of course state passage rate from 71 percent to 80 percent;
  • Increase high school civics end of course state passage rate from 71 percent to 75 percent;
  • Implement a National Civics, Speech, and Debate competition for all students—the first-of-its-kind in the nation; and
  • Make Florida a nationwide leader in training high school teachers in all Florida counties and train other states to continue or begin to successfully run competitive speech and debate teams at their schools.


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