Bill Would Give FL Schools Textbook Freedom

Feb 10, 2014

State Sen. Alan Hayes R-Umatilla
Credit Florida Senate

Local school districts – and not the Florida Board of Education – would choose textbooks under legislation filed for the upcoming regular session.

About 30 states now use the local textbook-selection model. The measure would expand a law approved last year, which gives school districts the authority to review and select materials without state involvement. The districts would only have to certify that their choices complied with state standards.

State Sen. Alan Hays, a Republican from Umatilla, is the sponsor. Sen. John Legg, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has said the bill would be an upper chamber priority.

The measure is also in response to complaints from Florida school district leaders. Hays has heard some parents’ complaints as well, about content in assigned literature, and what he calls “bizarre” math teaching methods.

Some teachers’ union officials at the grassroots level are weighing in with their thoughts. Rhonda Chavers with Santa Rosa Professional Educators says that adhering to the state standard would eliminate politics from textbook selection -- from the conservative Panhandle to the more progressive areas downstate – while putting the onus on textbook publishers -- which historically have had a strong presence in Tallahassee and could might fight the plan.

A couple of downsides to the measure are that the need for a state textbook depository could vanish, along with the state's bulk purchasing power.