The Biden administration, as well as President Joe Biden himself, is facing a mounting list of legal challenges, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just added to them in a big way
The administration of DeSantis, who is running second behind former president and current Florida resident Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has filed suit against the Biden administration “to ensure freedom in higher education.”
In a news release, the popular GOP governor ripped Biden’s Department of Education specifically:
Throughout Governor DeSantis’ time in office, Florida has ranked number one in the nation for higher education, yet the U.S. Department of Education has unconstitutionally collaborated with accreditation bodies to try to block the Governor’s efforts to bring increased transparency and accountability to public colleges and universities. This lawsuit seeks to strip private, unaccountable accreditors of their authority to stand in the way of Florida’s higher education reforms.
“I will not allow Joe Biden’s Department of Education to defund America’s #1 higher education system all because we refuse to bow to unaccountable accreditors who think they should run Florida’s public universities,” said the governor, according to the release.
“Throughout my time in office, I have made it a priority to bring transparency and accountability to higher education and to reorient the mission of our colleges and universities away from purveying destructive ideologies and back toward the pursuit of truth and the preparation of our students for success,” he went on.
The Biden administration’s attempts to block these reforms is an abuse of federal power, and with this lawsuit, we will ensure that Florida’s pursuit of educational excellence will continue,” he said.
Other Florida officials sounded off as well.
“For too long, private academic accreditors have been holding our colleges and universities hostage,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody, also a Republican.
“Thanks to the fearless leadership of Governor DeSantis, we are fighting to take back our public postsecondary education system from unelected private organizations that have no accountability or oversight,” she added.
Ray Rodrigues, Chancellor of the State University System of Florida, noted: “Gov. DeSantis and I believe a high-quality education should be held to the highest standards. Therefore, Florida’s #1 higher education system must be allowed to choose the regional accrediting agency that aligns with our institutional goals and meets those standards.
“The University of Central Florida’s goal to become a preeminent university and join the American Association of Universities is better supported by joining The Higher Learning Commission,” noted Rodrigues.
In order for a college or university to have access to federal student loans and operate fully in the United States, it needs to be accredited by private accrediting bodies approved by the federal government, known as “accreditors,” the press release explained. Recently, legislation was signed by DeSantis that mandates colleges and universities to seek accreditation from various accrediting bodies in consecutive accreditation cycles.
Before the legislation, accrediting agencies had complete control over Florida colleges and universities and could dictate their operations by using accreditation as leverage for institutions to conform to their ideological agenda, the release noted further.
The Department of Education responded to this by issuing three “guidance documents” targeted explicitly at Florida, which included a “dear colleague letter” that reinforced the standards the agency would use to determine if an institution had “reasonable cause” to switch accreditors.
Over half of Florida’s public colleges and universities are mandated by state law to switch accreditors within the next two years. However, the ability of these institutions to do so has been significantly hindered by the Biden administration’s alleged misuse of the current accreditation system.
“The lawsuit announced today asserts that the federal government’s current accreditation scheme is plainly unlawful under the ‘private non-delegation doctrine,’ which holds that ‘federal power can be wielded only by the federal government [and] private entities may do so only if they are subordinate to an agency,’ as well as other constitutional provisions and federal laws,” the press release added.