Ron DeSantis’ critics fear that Sarah Sanders will 'import' his 'bad education' policies to Arkansas

Ron DeSantis’ critics fear that Sarah Sanders will 'import' his 'bad education' policies to Arkansas

In Arkansas, Gov.-Elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders is turning to the Ron DeSantis playbook for public education, announcing that she will be nominating Florida education official Juan Oliva to head the Arkansas Department of Education.

Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and a former White House press secretary in the Trump Administration, is promising to use Oliva to “transform” education in Arkansas. And critics of DeSantis fear that the transformation won’t be a positive one for Arkansas teachers and schoolchildren.

Since 2017, Oliva has been serving as senior chancellor for the Florida Department of Education. DeSantis, a former congressman, was elected governor of Florida the following year. And since then, Oliva has helped the far-right MAGA Republican carry out his controversial education program.

READ MORE:'A strange no-eye-contact oddball': Who is the real Ron DeSantis?

Politico’s Andrew Atterbury reports, “By nominating Oliva, Sanders is attempting to bring in a Florida leader who, in recent years, played a key role in carrying out the education agenda of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. Sanders, in announcing the move, touted that experience under Florida’s Republican governor, which spanned fighting against schools implementing COVID-19 restrictions and carrying out conservative legislation like the parental rights law, labeled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ by opponents, that restricts lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Sanders announced her plans to nominate Oliva on Twitter on Thursday, December 29. The former Trump White House press secretary tweeted, “I am proud to announce that Jacob Oliva will be my nominee for Secretary of @ArkansasEd. He is a leader who has proven himself in the fight to empower parents and implement bold education reforms under Governor @RonDeSantisFL and we are ready to transform Arkansas education.”

DeSantis, like former President Donald Trump, has become a highly polarizing figure in U.S. politics, inspiring a variety of intense admiration and intense disdain. The Florida governor is a rock star in the MAGA movement, but among Democrats as well as Never Trump conservatives, DeSantis has more than his share of vehement critics.

Nonetheless, he enjoyed a landslide reelection victory in the 2022 midterms, defeating Democratic challenger Charlie Crist by 19 percent. Democrats, on the whole, performed much better than expected in the midterms, and Trump-backed MAGA candidates lost statewide races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and other swing states. But DeSantis was arguably the MAGA movement’s greatest success story on Election Night, inspiring many pundits to comment that Florida should no longer be considered a swing state — it has become a full-fledged red state. MSNBC’s Joy Reid, who once lived in Florida, was making that argument well before the midterms.

READ MORE: Laws like Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill 'harms students who are not queer' too

After Sanders tweeted her announcement, it didn’t take DeSantis’ critics on Twitter long to express their disdain for his education policies, including the widely criticized “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Twitter user @folktown4all, in response to Sanders’ post, commented, “‘Empower parents.’ Does that mean harass and alienate LGBTQ+ children?” And Mary Crain, @SkidittleMary, tweeted, “Sarah & every GOP who continue to support Trump, will always be liars. Facts can’t be changed-unless you’re in their cult echo chamber.”

Another DeSantis critic, @jd_pittman, posted, “Florida is the last place we need to be getting leaders from. Just more evidence that SHS has no real plans of her own but instead will just import bad policy from other GOP run states.” And @LeaningDracula wrote, “Here we come 1957. Just as those who’ve been paying attention thought.”

@OldSchoolSciFi tweeted, “‘Empowering parents’ = undermining school boards ‘bold education reforms’ = f*****g up everything ‘School choice’ = underfunding public schools The Smokey Eyed Liar just Florida'd Arkansas schools.”

READ MORE: Florida's new civics education training argues Founders' desire for 'separation of church and state' was a 'misconception'

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