Fla. Plan to Revamp Textbook Review Alarms Some Activists

By Erik W. Robelen — May 23, 2011 1 min read
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Conservative activists in Florida are protesting a measure recently passed by lawmakers that would remove ordinary citizens from the process of approving textbooks, the Tampa Tribune reports.

The proposal is part of a much larger package of education plans from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature now awaiting final signoff by Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican.

The story explains that the language affecting textbook adoption would replace the state’s formal review committees—which include lay citizens, teachers, teacher supervisors and a school board member—with a trio of subject-matter experts appointed by the state education commissioner. School districts would appoint teachers and content supervisors to rate the practical usability of the texts recommended by the state’s experts, the story says.

The changes, however, have apparently upset some Tea Party activists and other conservatives.

“‘We the People’ should have a say on what textbooks OUR CHILDREN read,” Tea Party activist Shari Krass wrote recently in a letter to Gov. Scott, the story says. Krass is among those who have suggested that some textbooks used in Florida schools favor Islam over Judaism and Christianity.

(That particular issue is not unique to Florida. Last year, the Texas State Board of Education narrowly approved a resolution, declaring that a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks,” and saying the board should reject any future textbooks that favor one religion over another.)

Rep. Marti Coley, a Republican who chairs the Florida House K-12 schools budget committee, described the change as “a simplification of the process” that coincides with the state’s move toward using more digital instructional materials.

“Everything we did was about how can we make it easier, and focused on the content—how does the content really deliver the Sunshine State Standards,” she said.

Earlier this year, Virginia’s state board of education approved an overhaul of its textbook-approval process after officials discovered a raft of errors in two elementary-level history books. Those changes were designed to install more safeguards in the review process. For example, the publishers now must certify that all textbooks have been reviewed for accuracy by at least three qualified subject-matter experts.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.