ORANGE PARK, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis and Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. joined in Clay County Thursday to discuss the progress made in the state’s Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement Program that aims to improve civic engagement in the classroom.

The program offers Florida teachers a $3,000 bonus incentive to take a 50-hour video course led by 39 subject experts and civic scholars.

“Teachers had to participate in 50 hours of instruction on topics including rights and responsibilities of citizens, value of civic pride, civics participation in government, comparing the United States to other governing philosophies like communist regimes, and also understanding the philosophical underpinnings of the American republic,” DeSantis said.

The governor added that today’s youth lack the civic knowledge so desired by many who fled communism in other countries.

“We do have a crisis of civic knowledge in this country right now and that’s important for any country, but it’s doubly important for the United States,” DeSantis said during the press conference. “[There’s] supposed to be an appreciation for the type of society that we have where we’re based on God-given rights, we’re based on a constitution that has limited powers and a whole bunch thing that went into that tradition.”

He added, “When you lose that, and when you don’t have people that have that foundation at all, we’re just listless vessels of citizenry at that point.”

So far, 4,500 Florida teachers completed the program, which began in January 2023, to earn their $3,000 bonuses. Over 20,000 teachers are enrolled in the course, and an additional 14,000 teachers are on the waitlist.

During a question and answer portion of the press conference, Diaz was asked why a rule proposed to the Department of Education would expand the ban on classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“What we’re really looking at in the rule is to avoid the confusion [and] provide clarity for teachers on the instruction,” Diaz said. “This rule basically says that we’re sticking to the standards. When you’re talking about K-12 instruction, these standards don’t incorporate gender ideology or any of these theories in math, social studies, reading, or anything else. We preserve the health standards and that makes it clear for teachers what it is because there are a lot of questions about ‘is it age-appropriate?’ Well, this clarifies it for everyone.”

According to the Associated Press, the proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote by the board next month.