I am happy to report that the Florida African American History Task Force remains active in its mission of raising awareness about our state’s rich black history. We continue to meet and fulfill our statutory obligations, and we believe we are making black history a relevant part of public education.
We are particularly excited with the strides the task force has made with its online course delivery program. Thanks to our two-year partnership with Ever-Fi, a Washington, D.C.-based education technology company that develops innovative web-based teacher training and online modular based African American history courses that can be integrated into school curricula.
Our efforts to increase online learning have produced positive results. Currently, 31 of Florida’s 67 school districts are using the Ever-Fi products, either in the form of teacher training or digital classroom instruction. The task force continues to work with Ever-Fi in hopes of expanding the Black History curricula to more school districts in the Sunshine State.
The task force also has reached a growing number of school district administrators, school board members and public schoolteachers through its African American History Summer Institutes. The educators who participated in our most recent 2018 Summer Institute appreciated the training and insights provided by colleagues and students from those exemplary school districts that are veterans in teaching black history curricula.
The bottom line? The African American History Task Force is working in a diligent and a fiscally responsible manner to meet its goals. Is it enough? Can we do more? “No,” and “Yes.”
Funding is critical. Florida currently appropriates $100,000 to the task force, which is used to pay for all programming and its staff of one. The funding, while appreciated, is clearly not enough to reach the many teachers and students in Florida’s 67 school districts. We had hoped to see an increase in our budget this year. However, we will make that a priority in 2020.
There is a demand for black history teaching tools, which can help explain the history of Florida to the more than 2.7 million youngsters attending public schools in our state. With greater funding and more resources, the task force could do a better job of reaching more educators throughout the state who are interested in enhancing their history and social service studies.
We should not shortchange our state’s rich history, not for ourselves or for those generations to come. The contributions of black Americans to the development of Florida is nothing short of extraordinary, whether it’s the development of America’s first “Underground Railroad” to freedom or the founding of the school that would become one of the nation’s prominent HBCUs in Bethune Cookman University by Mary McLeod Bethune.
Florida’s black history is Florida history – period. The African American History Task Force is doing its part and stands ready to do much more.
Tony Hill is chairman of the Florida African American History Task Force and a former member of the Florida Senate.