TAMPA, Fla. — From state lawmakers to educators, there is no shortage of frustration following the state of Florida’s decision to reject dozens of math textbooks.
The state's Department of Education deemed 54 of the 132 submitted math textbooks "impermissible" due to either new curriculum standards or because they contained "prohibited content."
Specifically, the state said 28 of them incorporated "prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies" like critical race theory. Twelve failed to meet Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking or BEST standard, which replaced the Common Core. And, 14 books – the state said – failed on both counts.
Elementary school math textbooks saw the most rejections with 71% of books geared towards grades K-5 being blocked. The state said 20% of middle school math textbooks submitted for approval were rejected. The rejection figure for high school submissions was 35%.
Despite those disapproval rates, the state said every core math course and grade level is covered with at least one approved textbook that made it through the process.
The state says some publishers were attempting to indoctrinate students. But, Florida has been reluctant to provide specific examples of what was found objectionable or which specific criteria were used to reach its conclusions.
Democratic lawmakers like State Rep. Anna Eskamani say they’ve also been denied specific examples of how a math book incorporates unsolicited strategies like critical race theory or comes too close to the old Common Core standards.
“Each one of us deserves evidence and examples of what the governor and his administration are panicking about this time,” said Eskamani.
Democratic State Rep. Carlos Smith on Twitter also wrote: “They won’t tell us what they are or what they say…DeSantis has turned our classrooms into political battlefields.”
But, DeSantis maintains it's the Democrats who are waging the political war in classrooms.
“You know, math is about getting the right answer. And we want kids to learn to think so they get the right answer,” DeSantis said at a news conference Monday. “It’s not about how you feel about the problem or to introduce some of these other things. It’s that there’s a right answer and a wrong answer. And we want all of our students getting the right answers.”
10 Tampa Bay asked the Department of Education to provide concrete examples and specific criteria that they say the rejected books failed to meet; but so far, the DOE hasn’t provided us those materials either.
“It’s not because they don’t want to release,” explained Gov. DeSantis in the news conference, “It’s just because these are textbooks, and this is how they do it.”
DeSantis claims he’s frustrated, too. He maintains that the state isn’t intentionally holding anything back.
Materials in those textbooks, he says, are often proprietary and legally protected, which keeps the state from publishing and sharing them.
“I would like it to be released, but I also respect the process,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis' spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, on Saturday took to Twitter to defend the state's position against critics.
"So instead of having a hissy fit because @GovRonDeSantis banned CRT math textbooks, ask yourself why CRT is being injected in math instruction to begin with?" Pushaw tweeted, sharing an image of a controversial math homework assignment in Missouri that resulted in a district apology.
According to the Florida Department of Education, textbooks are reviewable by subject every five years. This year it was math. Next on the review list is social studies.
The DOE says it has already started to accept bids from publishers.
They say publishers are allowed to appeal the DOE’s decision or make changes and resubmit their textbooks for review.