Florida bill that would require schools to teach history of communism spurs debate

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Florida bill that would require schools to teach history of communism spurs debate

Florida representatives sparred at a contentious House panel meeting this week over a new proposal to teach the history of communism to schoolchildren, ending in a decisive vote to advance the proposal. 

The bill, which House Republicans proposed in early January, would require public schools to teach, among other topics, about the history of communism within the United States and communist policies in Cuba and Latin America. The bill also specified lessons on the “increasing threat” of communism during the 20th century, citing the Cultural Revolution in China as an example. If passed, it would take effect in the 2026-2027 academic year.

At the panel meeting on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee voted 10–2 to advance the bill. Three of the five Democrats on the committee were absent for the vote.

State Rep. Alina Garcia, a Miami Republican, spoke in favor of the bill, saying that it is “never too early to teach our children the atrocities of communism.”

“I was born in Cuba,” she said, “and because of the communist regime, we had to flee the island, and I’m very grateful to my parents for having done that.”

“When we don’t learn from our history, we are destined to repeat it. And there will be nowhere to go, God forbid, if this country ever falls into the hands of communism,” she said.

But “communism” is not just a historical term in Florida, especially in South Florida, but a loaded political term often used by Republicans to attack Democrats. Former President Donald Trump falsely accused President Joe Biden and Democrats of being “communists” and “Marxists” after his arraignment in June 2023.

In a state with immigrant groups who hail from communist countries, especially Cubans, the term is a campaign issue: Democratic senatorial candidate and former congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell recently touted her opposition to communist and authoritarian regimes such as Cuba as she slammed her opponent, Republican Rick Scott, for “disinformation” around Democrats supporting communism. 

The bill’s introduction comes in an election year as both parties are appealing to Hispanic voters, including Cuban Americans. In 2020, almost 60% of Cuban Americans in Florida voted for Trump.

Opponents pushed back against the bill, with some pointing to the irony of instructing on communism when Florida has passed book bans and other restrictions on teaching students about slavery and African American studies

State Rep. Patricia Williams, a Democrat, said that the bill’s supporters “want to put something in the classroom to divide them” when many schools are still struggling to get children to read at their age level.

One co-sponsor of the bill, Republican state Rep. Chuck Brannan, defended the proposal as “not divisive in any way,” but an additional unit in history education.

“It simply aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of communism’s impact. Not as indoctrination or fear-mongering,” Brannan said, “but as a means of acknowledging its role in victimizing, torturing, murdering and displacing millions of people in the past century.”

Brannan added that Florida is “home to a diverse community of victims of communism, including those from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, the former Soviet Union and notably, the large Cuban population.”

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Emi Tuyetnhi Tran

Emi Tuyetnhi Tran is an intern for NBC News Digital.

Sandra Lilley

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