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Will Florida’s 67 School Districts empower parents to decide what their children learn, or not?

During the 2014 session the Florida legislature passed, and Governor Rick Scott signed into law, Senate Bill 864. SB 864 took effect on July 1, 1014. All 67 of Florida’s school districts are now in the process of implementing the provisions of this bill. However, some question whether the bill’s intent, to empower parents and stakeholders, will be fully realized.

Sherri Krass, founder of Eye on U.S. Education (EUSE), has done an analysis of SB 864. Krass writes:

Senate Bill 864, sponsored by Senator Alan Hays, initially stated that all counties SHALL create an “instructional materials committee” consisting of parents and teachers. The word SHALL dictates that this must be done. Parents would be able to provide input into the approval of the textbooks used by their children.

Unfortunately, by the time the bill left the House and a “compromise” was agreed upon, the body of the legislation was “hollowed out” – where only a “skeleton” remains of the original legislation.  The legislation now states:

(2)(a) If a district school board chooses to implement its own instructional materials program, the school board shall adopt rules implementing the district’s instructional materials program which must include its processes, criteria, and requirements for the following, but need not be limited to:  1. Selection of reviewers, one or more of whom must be parents with children in public schools.

Therefore, the creation of such a committee falls within the domain of each County School Board.  They can choose to not have one.

The legislation does provide an “opening”. Parents can still insist on a committee being formed.

A date is provided when School Boards have to “certify” the instructional materials.  Textbooks must align with the “Florida Standards” – a pseudonym for “Common Core”.

The district school superintendent shall certify to the department by March 31 of each year that all instructional materials for core courses used by the district are aligned with applicable state standards.   

But, parents can still reject a textbook and insist on another one. Textbooks can be found that align with the “Standards” and are not specifically written for “Common Core”. A major problem with “Common Core” are the textbooks that have been published for it. Rejecting these textbooks is a step forward in removing its influence.

Question: Will every school district empower parents and let them decide what textbooks and instructional materials are best suited for their children?

There are several indicators of a school district’s intent to empower parents and stakeholders in the adoption of textbooks and instructional materials.

  1. The establishment of a district Instructional Materials Committee, codified in district policy;
  2. Who selects the committee members, the Superintendent or School Board;
  3. The makeup of the committee (e.g. do parents or district staff have the majority of votes on the committee);
  4. Has the district established a fair and equitable process whereby parents can file a complaint directly to the local District School Board requesting rejection of a committee educational materials selection.

I asked Lori White, Superintendent of the Sarasota County Schools, if an Instructional Materials Committee would be formed and if so, when? Here is Superintendent White’s reply:

It is our intent to continue to participate in the state adoption process as outlined in the School Board policy 4.21. Our current policy requires that one or more laypersons participate in the district council. In most cases, these community members are parents with children in the system. Our School Board policy will be revised to incorporate the new requirements outlined in SB 864 regarding the process for a parent to protest the School Board’s decision to adopt a specific instructional material.

Krass wants to make sure parents are empowered and has asked Floridians to sign a petition stating so to Governor Scott and Florida’s legislators. Krass states, “EUSE suggests that a petition be submitted to each County School Board stating that parents want an ‘instructional Materials Committee’ to be formed.”

Krass has an online petition asking the Florida legislature to amend SB 864 to “require” that school districts establish a district Instructional Materials Committee. Interested citizens may sign the petition by clicking here.

FLORIDA ACTION ALERT: Support SB 386 – American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) bill

This is the first in a series of important alerts we will be sending to you in the days and weeks to come! Senator Alan Hays recently introduced SB 386, the Florida Senate’s American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) bill.

SB 386 is common-sense legislation that protects Floridians’ individual, fundamental constitutional rights from foreign laws or legal doctrines where the application of those laws/doctrines would violate those constitutional rights. No particular foreign law is singled out. The proposal applies to them all. It’s that simple.

The ACT! For America national staff have made the passage of this bill a top legislative priority. At this stage, it is up to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee whether SB 386 progresses to the floor of the Senate. We need to be sure that the members of the Committee understand the strong level of support across Florida for this bill!

Can we count on you to help us with this today?

Contact by you, a constituent, will be the best chance to see that this important bill passes in the Senate Judiciary Committee and ultimately becomes law. It just takes a moment of your time, but when your actions are joined together with the actions of thousands of other voters in Florida, it makes quite a roar.

Can we count on you to help us with the simple, but very important, Action Item noted below?

Important and Time Sensitive Action Item

Today, we need you to call and email all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (and pass this request on to everyone you know!). You can email each Senator by following the link to his or her legislative web site below:

Sen. Tom Lee:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S24
(850) 487-5024

Senator Darren Soto:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S14
(850) 487-5014

Senator Rob Bradley

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S7
(850) 487-5007

Senator Andy Gardiner

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S13
(850) 487-5013

Senator Arthenia L. Joyner

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S19
(850) 487-5019

Senator Jack Latvala

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S20
(850) 487-5020

Senator Garrett Richter

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S23
(850) 487-5023

Senator Jeremy Ring

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S29
(850) 487-5029

Senator John Thrasher

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S6
(850) 487-5006

Please respectfully relay the following sentiments in your own words in a phone call and e-mail:

Dear Senator,

I urge you to support SB 386, the Florida Senate’s American Laws for American Courts bill. This important piece of legislation was introduced by Senator Alan Hays and has already passed in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and North Carolina.

Further, I ask that you do what you can to move this bill through the legislative process and to the Senate floor for a vote.

SB386 is tremendously important to all Florida citizens, as it protects their constitutional rights from the incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, if those laws infringe upon their state or federal fundamental constitutional rights.

No individual foreign law is singled out.

We must maintain the authority of the Florida and U.S. Constitutions.

As a resident of Florida and as a voter, this bill is of the utmost importance to me!

Thank you again for your leadership on this vital matter.

Sincerely,

(Your name and city)

Thank you for your help in seeing this bill passed in Florida, so that your state can join the others that now have ALAC laws on the books!

REMEMBER, YOUR VOICE COUNTS! IF EACH OF US DOES JUST A LITTLE, TOGETHER WE CAN ACCOMPLISH A LOT!