Senate Textbook Bill a Clunker

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 14, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

The textbook bill that passed narrowly in the Senate last week is no way to answer Common Core. It's a school-budget turkey multiplied 67 times. And worse.

Sponsored by Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, Senate Bill 864 provides that district school boards have "the constitutional duty and responsibility" to select and provide adequate instructional materials for all students. If this bill goes all the way to the governor's desk, it will end the state Department of Education’s role in reviewing and selecting students’ textbooks.

First, try to imagine how wildly impractical this is.

"Constitutional duty and responsibility" is a fancy way of saying here comes an unfunded mandate.

The bill includes no state-granted budget provision to conduct an independent investigation of the accuracy of district-adopted instructional materials. Districts would be on their own. Imagine what it would cost in time and money to do the job right, especially for small districts.

Plus, the DOE has always done the heavy lifting on textbooks. Think of a school district as a mainstreet mom-and-pop and the state as Walmart. The state negotiates prices with publishers, cuts phenomenal deals and buys in bulk. The mom-and-pop pays top dollar because the volume it's ordering is peanuts. I couldn't find anyone Friday with the remotest clue how much more this mandate would add to a district's budget -- even a ballpark figure.

But there's something worse than the financial waste.

Florida has 67 districts. Imagine the inconsistencies. Imagine how different the thought process is going to be district to district on what is acceptable for children to learn. I'm afraid for my grandchildren and their children.

All this started in 2013 because the Prentice World History textbook used in Volusia and Brevard counties' Advanced Placement class had a chapter on Islam but not on other religions. The criticism was largely out-of-context, but it created an almighty stir in Central Florida especially, and of course, it made colorful viewing on FOX and CNN. 

Volusia Countians were convinced this was all a federal government plot to impose One World-inspired Common Core standards on Florida schoolchildren. But, I beg you, consider this: The Volusia and Brevard school districts -- like every district in Florida -- had a chance to review and a right to refuse that or any textbook before it ever went into the classroom. It's just that nobody did.

I fear if SB 864 becomes law, one of the unintended consequences we'll get is censorship.

As a hands-off conservative, I want to see scholars, historians and educators -- nobody else -- producing and/or making decisions on an honest-to-God fact-based curriculum. No preaching, no revisionism, no pablum allowed. The DOE might not be perfect, but consider the Senate bill alternative.

It's the arbiters of political correctness on the left and the fundamentalist guardians of morality on the right that scare the pants off me. I think they have a cozy censorship concerto going on that serves the political and social agendas of both, scorns the interests of students, and ensures that students will not be exposed to anything that might bother anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

I remember some years back a group of St. Lucie County parents caused a great commotion at a school board meeting because of two textbooks: In one, summarizing the history of the peanut, a middle school textbook included the term "African slaves." In the other, there were just too many references to words like "gay" and "abortion." One parent commented, "I just don't want this kind of stuff getting in my daughter's head."


So, now I have to worry, what if a few noisy citizens like this wind up on my local textbook committee? Surely, local textbook committees are going to bring these people out of the woodwork. What does this mean for my grandchildren? What kind of education? When it comes time, will they be able to compete with any student in the world for a university place?

By the way, the Florida School Board Association opposes SB 864; the Florida Parent Teacher Association liked the bill initially, but now has retracted its support.

I realize the senators who voted for the bill in part were trying to distance themselves from Common Core without moving to reject it altogether. I appreciate the position they're in this session. But if we must have a textbook bill, let's hope it winds up more like the House version, Matt Gaetz's House Bill 921.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican's legislation says Florida districts can create a process to choose their own material if they like. That option is currently offered, but unused. If a school board goes that route, the House bill says the board would have to follow certain rules in reviewing books and must align with state standards.

HB 921 doesn't cast all 67 districts so dangerously adrift.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (5)

9:21AM APR 15TH 2014
Very interesting to say the least that Senator (foot in mouth) would turn on his master's Co-Governor's Rick-Jeb and their NWO COMMON CORE initiatives. All Textbooks in the USA originate in TEXAS! Wonder Why?The Pearson Publishing PRENTICE HALL WORLD HISTORY book that pushes ISLAM along with required reading "THE BLUEST EYE" that pushes gay lifestyle triggered Senator Hays to take a stand. Thank You Senator Hays - while we do not always agree with you this one you got right. Bet you got another call from Gary Lester the Villages political hack on this one like you did when you failed to vote for Jeb's PARENT TRIGGER the first time - Is that why you changed your Parent Trigger vote this year? We hope not, but the Villages with their Jeb Bush yield a lot of power and if you double cross them you will soon be poltical history.
Irena Martinez
11:16AM APR 15TH 2014
You must be one of the crazy textbook committee candidates Nancy was afraid of. I pray we don't have to live by this bill in our school district.
Katherine Harms
2:00PM APR 14TH 2014
I would regard it as a great blessing if the Federal and the State departments of education both disappeared. Poof! Gone! Let local boards run local schools under the watchful eye of local parents. Keep the money in the local community. Precious little that leaves town ever returns. We just see bureaucrats and manuals with rules in them. Education is the most important thing most cities ever do. The future of children is extremely important to most parents, and the local parents ought to get to elect a board that works with local parents. All those directives and commands from afar, be it state or federal, are most unwelcome and unuseful. While we are at it, when those faroff departments end, then cancel their rules and regulations. It is enough that local schools are accountable to local parents. They don't need any more bosses.
Florida School Board Member
12:07PM APR 14TH 2014
Thank you! This is one bill we hope will NOT make it. We have the same fears of crazy people in our community having a say in texts.
4:53AM APR 14TH 2014
nice share.

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