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Saturday, March 02, 2024

Fact-checking DeSantis’ recent claims

Taking a look at his policies on education, the economy and foreign relations

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

During his presidential run, Gov. Ron DeSantis has made many claims during stump speeches and debates. He has covered topics like his state’s financial stability, academic freedom and gender ideology. 

Over the course of not just his candidacy, but also governorship, DeSantis has also been an avid critic of the current White House.

“The people in Washington are shutting down the American dream with their reckless behavior,” DeSantis said during the Republican Primary Debate Sept. 27. 

The Alligator fact-checked his most recent statements about Florida. Here are the results:

False statement on the economy

During a recent speech in Iowa, DeSantis said Florida has the best economy in the country. During one of the 2024 Republican Party presidential primary debates, DeSantis said he categorized Florida’s economy as the best using information he obtained from a 2023 article from CNBC

However, U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida seventh, while Utah is ranked first. Unlike CNBC's focus on six economic indicators, U.S. News & World Report's methodology is more comprehensive, evaluating 71 metrics across eight categories on states' overall well-being.

True statement on education

DeSantis said Florida has the best education in the country during the second 2024 Republican presidential primary debate. Florida has been ranked No. 1 for education for the past seven years, according to the U.S. News & World Report

Florida is ranked 14th for grades Pre-K-12, while it is first for higher education. New Jersey is in second place overall with its Pre-K-12th grade ranked No. 1, and its higher education being ranked 29th. 

Unclear statements on critical race theory, gender ideology

Another claim DeSantis made is that critical race theory and gender ideology have been wiped from schools in Florida during the second Republican debate.

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Gender ideology is not a term in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary or Oxford Languages. DeSantis did prohibit the discussion of gender and sexuality by signing the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in March 2022. The law went into effect in July 2022. 

Critical race theory is "a set of ideas holding that racial bias is inherent in many parts of western society, especially in its legal and social institutions, on the basis of their having been primarily designed for and implemented by white people," according to Oxford Languages. 

Several school boards have stated that they have never taught critical race theory in their schools. Critical race theory is also not found within the Florida State Standards. 

“I had not heard of either term before I got to college,” Jacob Price, a 19-year-old UF music education sophomore, said. “Critical race theory is talked about in some of my education classes. I do not recall being familiar with gender ideology before DeSantis mentioned it.”

The Florida Board of Education has recently changed some of the standards about African American history. One of the standards that has received scrutiny from many is in relation to Black people developing skills while they provided slave labor.

“Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” the 2023 Florida History Standards states. 

In an interview with NBC, DeSantis said this standard means “They developed skills in spite of slavery, not because of slavery.” 

During a Republican primary debate, DeSantis said the quote above was a hoax perpetrated by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. 

False statement on teacher salary

While DeSantis did successfully lobby the Florida legislature to raise the starting teacher salary, Florida is not the ninth-best state for teacher salaries overall — which he told viewers at the second Republican debate Sept. 27. 

Florida is below average when it comes to teacher pay, according to the World Population Review. The state is No. 9 in terms of starting teacher pay. 

The average teacher salary in Florida was about $48,000 when DeSantis became governor in the 2018-2019 school year. The average teacher salary for the 2022-2023 school year is about $53,000, according to the Florida Department of Education. 

This is about a 10% increase in teacher salaries from the years 2018-2022. 

Unclear statements on Latin America

When asked a question about the immigration policy at the Mexico border, DeSantis redirected the question and told a story of a young baby who died of a fentanyl overdose after the baby’s family rented an Airbnb. The people who rented the property before were doing drugs, according to DeSantis and media outlets. 

DeSantis failed to explain why this story relates to the Mexico border. The only information about the case currently is that the people who rented the property before the family threw a party with drugs, but there was no fentanyl at the party, according to an article written by NBC

Contact Jordan Ramos at jramos@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JordanR68971799.

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Jordan Ramos

Jordan Ramos is a fourth-year journalism major who spends his time singing in two different choirs and his a cappella group.


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