Apr 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Florida says it rejected math textbooks for referring to critical race theory

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran (L) attend a press conference at Bayview Elementary School on October 07, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran (left) and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Florida Department of Education announced it has rejected dozens of math textbooks submitted by publishers for schools, saying they "contained prohibited topics" including critical race theory.

Why it matters: Several Republican-led states have moved to limit students' exposure to critical race theory, or CRT, an academic framework developed in the 1970s by legal scholars that focuses on systemic racism.

  • How systemic racism is — or is not — taught in public schools has become a new fault line in the culture wars, Axios' Russell Contreras notes. Critics say so-called CRT bans end up limiting any discussion of diversity, per Contreras.

By the numbers: 54 out of 132 math books (41%) recently submitted for review in the state were found to be "impermissible with either Florida's new standards or contained prohibited topics," per a Florida Department of Education (FDOE) statement Friday.

  • 28 (21%) of these books were "not included on the adopted list because they incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT," the statement said.
  • 14 (11%) were "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," the statement added.

The big picture: Florida's Republican-controlled House passed a measure in February designed to make it easier to pull books found to be objectionable.

Details: Most of the rejected books were for elementary schools, according to the education department's statement.

  • The department said it's "unfortunate that several publishers" had "ignored" the 2021 directive and "attempted to slip rebranded instructional materials" into books, while others "included prohibited and divisive concepts such as the tenets of CRT or other unsolicited strategies of indoctrination despite FDOE’s prior notification."

Worth noting: The department described the review process as "transparent" but did not name the rejected textbooks nor provide examples of passages that failed to meet the criteria.

What they're saying: DeSantis said in a statement that he was "grateful" to Richard Corcoran, the outgoing commissioner of education, and his team for the "vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law."

  • "It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students," DeSantis added.

The other side: State Rep. Carlos Smith (D) tweeted Saturday thate DeSantis was "hysterically pulling math books outta FL schools claiming they 'indoctrinate' kids with CRT."

  • "This isn’t just crazy right-wing pandering— next they’ll spend MILLIONS of tax dollars forcing schools to buy math books from GOP campaign donors," Smith added.

Go deeper: New York Public Library makes some banned books free to all

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