© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Leon Schools will wait out textbook adoption after Florida rejects a record 41% of proposals

A young student does homework at a dining table piled with school textbooks
Patricia Moynihan
WFSU Public Media

The Leon County School District is waiting to see what the state education department does next, after it rejected an unprecedented number of school textbooks, about 41% of what was submitted. More than 70% of submissions for mathematics in grades K-5 were tossed and only one publisher made that list. That’s leaving school districts like Leon, with few options.

“They [school districts] count on three to four publishers divvying up and being selected across the state. So I would imagine the one publisher scrambling [and] thinking, I don’t know if we have enough product in stock, and what would be the turnaround to print enough for every district in the state of Florida?” said Billy Epting, the Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services for Leon County Schools.

Epting has been dealing with textbook adoption for more than three decades and said, “in my 36 years I’ve never seen this many” books fail to be adopted. Many school districts, said Epting, may have already made selections based on prior precedents and now are having to start over. The issue wouldn’t affect Leon, which is a year behind in textbook adoption, until the 2023-2024 school year. He says having several textbooks to choose from allows local districts to find the best fits for their schools and students.

The state says the books were rejected because they either didn’t align with new learning standards or referenced topics like critical race theory, an academic framework in higher education that examines government policy through the lens of racism. It’s one of a number of issues Florida’s Republican leaders don’t want taught in schools. The Florida Department of Education has released the names of the rejected textbooks but has not provided specific examples of the offending language and state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Gov. Ron DeSantis say that information is considered proprietary by publishers, who can appeal the decision.

“I told them I said, ‘the minute they let you release it, release it.’ We obviously want people to be able see it. But it’s [the review] not done by me or Richard, but by people who are applying Florida Standards. It’s sad we’re even in a situation to have to do this,” DeSantis said during a recent press conference in The Villages.

In an announcement about the rejections, DOE listed the following:

  • 78 of 132 total submitted textbooks are being included on the state’s adopted list.
  • 28 (21 percent) are not included on the adopted list because they incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT.
  • 12 (9 percent) are not included on the adopted list because they do not properly align to B.E.S.T. Standards.
  • 14 (11 percent) are not included on the adopted list because they do not properly align to B.E.S.T. Standards and incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT.
  • Grades K-5: 71 percent of materials were rejected.
  • Grades 6-8: 20 percent of materials were rejected.
  • Grades 9-12: 35 percent of materials were rejected.

The textbook rejectioncould be a harbinger of more things to come, says PEN America, a national, non-partisan literary organization. Next year the state’s social studies textbooks are up for review, where concepts like critical race theory and social-emotional learning are a lot more central to the subject. The organization also notes Florida’s decisions on textbooks have national implications. Florida is the third-largest state in the nation, and its sheer size and purchasing power carry influence.

“So there’s an effort here by the state to censor what children can learn not only in Florida, but nationwide. Florida does buy a large number of textbooks and it's difficult for textbook companies to produce a separate edition for Florida from the textbooks they’ll be using elsewhere,” said Jeremy Young, PEN America’s Senior Manager of the Free Expression and Education program.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has prioritized getting rid of what he views as “indoctrination” in schools. So far, the state has watered down how it teaches issues like slavery, banned mandatory participation in diversity training in government entities and businesses, limited how sexuality and gender identity can be taught in public schools, and made it easier for parents and others to contest schoolbooks and sue school districts.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.