Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke for about an hour Friday during the opening day of the first-ever Moms for Liberty National Summit held in Tampa, which was scheduled to continue on Saturday and Sunday.
The summit welcomed “all moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, and friends concerned about the attack on parental rights in education and are ready to defend those rights at all levels of government.”
Moms For Liberty was founded by two former Florida school board members and gained national notoriety by challenging school-board policies such as mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Event organizers say the group now has chapters in 38 states and more than 100,000 members nationwide.
DeSantis told the attendees about the importance of school boards.
“I think what’s happened over the last couple years is parents now realize that these are really significant elections. Certain elections, the midterm, who’s running for governor or senator, those are important, don’t get me wrong. But (school boards) probably have a significant impact on families’ lives in a way that some of these other offices may not be able to do,” DeSantis said during his speech Friday.
In June, DeSantis launched an education agenda focused on influencing local school board races in the 2022 election cycle.
Titled “The DeSantis Education Agenda: Putting Students First, Protecting Parents’ Rights,” the policies focus on issues related to student success, parental rights, and curriculum transparency.
According to the website, “The DeSantis Education Agenda is a student-first, parent-centered initiative focused on setting Florida’s children up for success, ensuring parental rights in education, and combating the woke agenda from infiltrating public schools … .This statewide agenda is for school board candidates and school board members who are committed to advancing these priorities at the local school board level.”
“Now is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Now is not the time to let them grind you down,” DeSantis told the audience. “You’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to fight.”
“I have a five-, a four- and a two-year-old, so maybe I’m a little bit more sensitive about this,” DeSantis said. “But I think parents in this country should be able to have their kids go to school, watch cartoons — just be kids — without an agenda shoved down their throat.”
The summit topics included school board activism, candidate and media training, and strategy sessions focused on parental rights and public education. The breakout sessions included a legal forum about the rights of parents and students, one on First Amendment rights and a “look behind the education curtain.”
Others scheduled to speak at the summit include Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Betsy DeVos, the education secretary under former President Donald Trump.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.