More than 600 students compete in Florida Civics and Debate State Championship

Florida Department of Education | May 14, 2024

Tallahassee, Fla., May 14, 2024 – More than 600 middle and high school students from across the state of Florida recently competed in the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI) State Championship in Orlando. Governor Ron DeSantis launched FCDI in 2019, and it has since expanded to include more than 3,400 students from over 400 middle and high schools across Florida’s 67 counties.

“Governor DeSantis established the first-of-its-kind Florida Civics and Debate Initiative in 2019 to foster civil discourse and elevate civics education across Florida schools,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “Debate programs statewide are flourishing, and with more than 600 students participating in the state championship, it’s clear the Governor’s vision is coming to fruition.”

“The incredible talent of our debate teams across Florida is truly amazing,” said Rebecca Matthews, Board Chairman of the Florida Education Foundation. “We are dedicated to providing students with opportunities to grow and excel in their educational and career pursuits. Thank you to our teachers and coaches who ignite a passion for civic literacy in Florida students.”

About the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative

Florida is leading the way in strengthening civics instruction and education in Florida’s kindergarten through postsecondary schools. In 2019, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation established the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI), the only statewide debate program of its kind in the nation. FCDI focuses on civics education and has incredibly strong support from state leaders.

Competitive debate supports academic learning, builds character, teaches responsibility and draws out hidden talents in students. Students learn to be flexible and think quickly on their feet. Students must adapt their arguments to win ballots from a diverse judge pool. The feedback students receive from judges helps them better understand how to frame the most effective message. This input helps build students’ high-level and critical thinking skills.

Since its inception, FCDI has developed over 40 new speech and debate teams in all of Florida’s 67 counties, with more than 4,200 competitors; provided over 700 hours of professional learning to new debate coaches; and facilitated professional development to 425 debate coaches and social studies teachers. In 2019-20, 11,678 students competed in speech and debate. That number increased to 14,357 after year one. In year one, FCDI developed 59 new debate teams, with an additional 102 added in year two. Since then, the number of Florida school districts with competitive speech and debate teams has grown from the original 11 to all 67 counties.

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