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First Coast educator calls state's rejection of some textbooks a 'political power move' by Gov. DeSantis

Some local educators say state officials rejecting more than 50 math textbooks, claiming some referenced Critical Race Theory, could cause teachers to quit.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Education announced Friday it was rejecting 41 percent of submitted math textbooks for next school year, citing references to Critical Race Theory in some as one reason why. 

It's the highest percentage of textbooks rejected in the state's history, according to the DOE.

"This creates more uncertainty for our teachers who are already leaving the classrooms in droves," Michelle Dillon, President of the St. Johns Education Association, said.  "It's just another fear of being micromanaged for what they might say in the classroom or perceptions of how they interpret the textbook, just another hurdle for our teachers to overcome."

According to the DOE, 54 textbooks were rejected for kindergarten through twelfth grade curriculum out of 132 submitted because some included references to CRT. Governor Ron DeSantis banned CRT from classrooms last year. 

Others, officials said, included the Common Core, which DeSantis removed from classrooms in 2020, and the "unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning in mathematics."

The DOE also said publishers were trying to "indoctrinate students."

"You do have things like Social and Emotional Learning and some of the other things that are more political in there," Gov. DeSantis said Monday. "In our view, first, it doesn’t meet the standards, but second, math is about getting the right answer, and we want kids to learn to think, so they can get the right answer."

"...It's not about how you feel about the problem, or to introduce some of these other things. There's a right answer and there's a wrong answer, and we want all of our students getting the right answers," DeSantis said.

Officials haven't provided specific examples in the textbooks why they were rejected.

"Show me the examples right now, there is no specific evidence that CRT is in math textbooks, and we need to not use political power moves to decide what textbooks are used. It’s just wrong," Dillon said.

Dillon worries this move by the DOE will cause more teachers to leave the profession. 

"It has been the entire past year and a half of legislative bills with the Don't Say Gay bill and other legislative pieces where teachers feel like there's just many eyes on them micromanaging and misinterpreting anything they say, and it's just one more stressor," she said.

She said the schools are in limbo because they've already chosen next year's textbooks from the list of approved books the DOE sent out last summer. 

"It is a transparent process, so for our governor to be meddling in that process for what I believe is a political power play in an upcoming election year, it does a disservice to our students," Dillon said.

She said they're not sure yet if they'll have to go through that process again.

State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) from House District 49 said representatives have also been asking the DOE for specific examples regarding why the books were rejected.

“This is just the most recent example of Governor DeSantis turning our classrooms into political battlefields," Smith said.

RELATED: Lawmakers demand examples after Florida rejects dozens of math textbooks

First Coast News reached out to local school districts and asked what their responses were to the DOE rejecting the textbooks.

Duval County Public Schools sent the following statement.

"Each year, the Florida Department of Education provides a list of approved instructional materials from which school districts can select their materials. We are currently waiting to see if publishers whose texts didn’t make the approved list are going to adjust their materials so that the Department of Education will approve those materials to be on the list. We are watching the situation closely, and we will be able to say more about the impact in Duval County once we learn how each publisher will respond."

Clay County District Schools sent the following statement.

"Clay County District Schools adopts textbooks in a cycle according to subject area. Within that schedule, the district has adopted some mathematics textbooks for the next school year. As with all manners of operations, the district leans on guidance and instruction from the Florida Department of Education and will continue to modify and align the district’s actions accordingly."

FCN asked the DOE for specific examples in the rejected books that include references to CRT. A spokesperson replied with the list of approved books and the list of rejected books, but no specific examples in the rejected books.

The spokesperson also added, "It is also important to remember that publishers may appeal any non-adoption decision and substitute or revise their submitted bids to be included on the state’s adopted list, if the substitution or revision of submitted instructional materials meets the bid specifications and aligns with Florida’s B.E.S.T. standards."

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