Ron DeSantis began his term in a way that suggested smarts and a desire to gesture enough to the center to build the sort of happy governing coalition that propels a large-state Governor into Presidential candidate conversations.
Then something happened. Some people snark that his wife, the real brains of the outfit, had another baby and was distracted with motherhood. Or maybe DeSantis, like other Republican pols, fell under they hypnotic effect of Trump’s GOP poll numbers. In any event, when the COVID crisis came along, DeSantis appeared out of his depth, clinging to one idea: Do Whatever Trump Says. The state unemployment system — designed by the evil Rick Scott to be as hard to use as possible — totally failed under the onslaught of claims and has yet to recover. Meanwhile Florida re-opened quickly, and the Governor opposed mask rules.
It has not worked out well: Florida now has one of the leading rates of infection in the nation, and it’s growing quickly.
Today’s news, however, suggests something even weirder than Trump idolatry. In the midst of a rapidly growing pandemic, Governor DeSantis just vetoed all the money the state appropriates for distance education:
With a stroke of his veto pen, Gov. Ron DeSantis wiped out the entire $29.4 million budget for a suite of online education services that have become critical to students and faculty during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The move, barring action before midnight Tuesday, will kill the Complete Florida Plus Program, an array of technology systems that faculty, staff and students throughout Florida rely on, never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic that has amplified reliance on distance learning. The cuts include a database of online courses and an online library service that provides 17 million books to 1.3 million students, faculty and staff.
At least 2,000 adult learners could be cut off from their scholarships and school accreditation could even be at risk without the resources housed under Complete Florida, which are used by students at high schools, state colleges and universities. Some 150 employees in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Pensacola stand to lose their jobs.
You really have to wonder whether this is malevolence or incompetence. Or is the theory that all will be wine and roses by late August, the schools will reopen as normal, so who needs distance learning? If so, it’s likely madness.