Proposed changes to textbook selection process

State Sen. Alan Hays filed a bill that will change the way textbooks are selected in Florida. If approved, the bill would give local school boards full control over the process and the state Department of Education would have no role. The Gradebook blog notes the bill’s filing: Florida senator files bill to remove state from textbook selection process. You can also read Hays’ press release. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“Local school districts, not the state or federal government, are the most qualified to determine what textbooks are appropriate for Florida’s classrooms.”

SB 864 eliminates the statewide adoption of textbooks and instructional materials for K-12 public school students by the Florida Department of Education and places control in local school districts.

The bill prioritizes transparency through open, noticed hearings that seek public input and by requiring local school districts to notify parents of their ability to access their children’s textbooks and instructional materials. A local process would also be established to appeal a district school board’s decision to adopt particular textbooks or instructional materials.

This is something we need to carefully review and monitor. When the DoE is responsible for reviewing and selecting textbooks and other instructional materials we can easily keep an eye on the process and flag anything questionable. If the responsibility shifts fully to individual school boards, how do we know if anything questionable makes it into the classroom?

A couple of things concern me. First, Sen. Hays was a sponsor of anti-evolution legislation back in 2008. Second, a few school boards back then revealed themselves to be dominated by anti-evolution advocates when they passed resolutions asking evolution to be downplayed in the state science standards. Will a creationist-leaning school board consider textbooks or supplemental materials from A Beka Book, for example. Would that be allowed under Hays’ bill?

Read the bill yourself and tell me what you think: Senate Bill 864.