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Florida Legislature Passes School Textbook Bill

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – A new bill, on its way to Governor Scott, would make school districts give parents the chance to object to textbooks used in schools.

The Senate, on Thursday, voted 31-4 for the bill that would require districts to hold a public hearing if parents object—but it wouldn’t get rid of an existing state review of textbooks.

The legislation is headed to Governor Rick Scott.

The bill was inspired both by ongoing criticisms about the state’s transition to new school standards as well as a dispute in Volusia County over a textbook that some parents wanted pulled over complaints that it offered a pro-Islamic worldview.

But the legislation will not eliminate state review of textbooks as originally sought by sponsors of the bill. Instead, school boards will continue to decide whether to review textbooks locally, or continue to rely on the state-approved list.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla and sponsor of the bill, said it would finally give parents a way to object to textbooks without having to complain to legislators or state education officials.

“They don’t have to come to Tallahassee,” Hays said. “They can appeal right there at the local level.”

The Senate in April narrowly passed a bill sponsored by Hays that would have mandated that each school district review and choose textbooks.

But school boards and even Education Commissioner Pam Stewart were opposed to eliminating the state review. There were concerns that districts would not select textbooks that are aligned to Florida’s new standards, which are based primarily on Common Core State Standards.

Opponents complained it would cost districts money to review textbooks. And Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she was worried that some districts would wind up censoring some books.

The Florida House rejected the elimination of the state review and instead passed a bill that creates a process that lets parents object to the textbooks. It requires school districts to hold a public hearing if someone complains about the books that are being used.

The bill was pushed this year amid complaints about the state’s move to Common Core standards. The Republican-controlled Legislature is refusing to jettison the standards as some activists and conservative groups want. But they are pushing legislation meant to address concerns that have been raised during the fight over the standards.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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