Pick Your Own Textbooks

Local school boards and not the state could soon be deciding which history, math, and other text books kids will be using . But shifting power from the state to the local school board has raised concerns of censorship.

The legislature gave local school boards the option to pick which text books to use last year. “Guess how many school districts elected to do that? Not one”, Said Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee.

Now, legislation would force local control on the boards this year. The Department of Education currently provides a vetted list of materials for schools to use. It could lead to 67 different school boards using 67 different sets of text books.

Senator Maria Sachs says the current system doesn't create confusion. “If a student from Miami-Dade moves with family up to Pensacola, they know it’s going to be seamless.”

Some Senators were concerned that leaving text book selection up to local school boards could begin a new chapter in censorship.

Senator Geraldine Thompson of Orlando says the legislation could lead to different versions of history being taught. “We have people who object to the fact that the nation of Islam might be in a text book, the work of Mark Twain might be in a text book.”

The Florida School Board Association calls the legislation a disaster waiting to happen.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult to implement this bill on a statewide level and the legislature provided no funds to do it”, said Wayne Blantonof the Florida School Board Association.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays of Lake County says the fees come from the publisher. He says local control is what parents want. “Most of the time people resist change, and once they get into it they find out ‘you know what, this really isn’t all that bad.”

The plan would go into effect for the coming school year.

School boards will be able to collect up to $3,500 from each text book publisher that chooses to participate.

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