Op Ed: Vital K-12 Education legislation Sidelined by Rep O’Toole and Sen. Legg

Janet_McDonaldLegislative session is about to wrap up, yet vital education legislation has been sidelined by Education Committee Chairs Senator Legg and Representative O’Toole.

Here is a quick recap:

In July Gov Scott signed into law (FS. 1006.283) the K-12 Curriculum Bill sponsored by Senator Hays(SB 864).  Its purpose was to assign each school board the constitutional responsibility to select and provide appropriate instructional materials, to require each district to create a transparent review policy and process to allow parents and community members to review instructional materials and raise objections if the material was not accurate or was objectionable, and would allow school districts to implement their own selection and purchase programs as an alternative to buying from State approved lists.

The implementation of this law has not been rigorous, and has been met with resistance in some districts when community members choose to voice positions on materials in use.  Across the state parents and community members have identified inappropriate instructional materials relative to age and content, religious or political indoctrination, revisionist history, or pornography appearing in materials chosen from state suggested lists (links available on www.FLCA.com).

SB 1018 and HB 899 would require instructional materials “be of high quality, research-based, and proven to be effective in supporting student learning; provide a non-inflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues; be appropriate to the students’ age and varying levels of learning; be accurate and factual (FS 1003.42 2a-f) ; and  be of acceptable technical quality.”  These bills would provide tools for all Florida school districts to build indemnification into their purchase contracts to protect the use of tax dollars from publishers who currently have no incentive to follow Florida law.

Senator Hays who championed SB 864, is also the sponsor for this legislation, to underscore the intent of the original legislation.

With a record number of legislator cosponsors for SB 1018 and HB 899 and a 5 year chorus from educational experts of national standing, parents, teachers, community members and students requesting local decision making to correct inappropriate materials and pedagogy that are embedded in the common core/Florida Standards curriculum/materials/testing monster that has been thrust on FL public schools, it shocks me that both Education Chairs Senator Legg and Representative O’Toole choose to restrict these bills from being considered.

SB 1018 and HB 899 are “fix it” or “glitch” bills that seek to correct the wording of SB 864.     SB1018 and HB 899 “fixes” the invitation to a requirement, in that, each district “shall implement” a transparent policy/process whether they purchase off the State list or create their individual purchase program, would tighten the definition of instructional materials, gives each district greater flexibility  to purchase instructional materials that meet or exceed current Florida Standards, and expands a parent’s rights (to include the rights of all taxpayers)  to object and and provides legal remedy for parents and taxpayers for he adoption of and use of objectionable materials.

Those legislators who stand as champions for meaningful public participation in education policy implementation include Sponsors Senator Hays and Representative Pilon.  Co-sponsors include Senators T. Hutson, L. Benacquisto, J.Negron, A. Bean, R. Bradley,  and Representatives Ahern, Antone, Beshears, Caldwell, Costello, Eagle, Fitzenhagen, M. Gaetz , Grant, Mayfield, Pigman, R. Rodrigues, Santiago, Stone, Sullivan, Tobia, Adkins…a record number of supporters from all parts of the state and across party lines.  Please urge your representatives to join in support and passage of these important bills for our children and teachers and the future of quality education in Florida.

Educators are very conflicted and compromised daily with the biased and inappropriate content they are supposed to use.  And the testing that drives it is highly suspect, and, in truth, still a field test which should not be used as it is being used.  The false model that one raw test can be used to do anything other than test student achievement is the first cardinal law broken in this testing subterfuge.  Using questionable data for multiple uses, having a peripheral relationship to the testee, is a violation of multiple magnitudes of educational best practice and good old common sense. Let’s give our educators tools to build skills, thinking and true critical analysis.

Janet McDonald, M.Ed., LMT (MA 64436)

Neurodevelopment Therapist & Instructor

Flagler School Board, District 2