WEST PALM BEACH (CN) – A nonprofit group claims Florida’s governor “purged” the state school board, to undermine public schools and “facilitate the religious indoctrination of children,” then pushed through a law that will give a two-member board the power to select school textbooks, with the intent to unleash “unscientific creationist beliefs of fundamentalist religious leaders, who seek to promote their erroneous beliefs on the children of Florida”.
Public school textbook committees, which generally operate out of the limelight, are immensely powerful, in that they direct the spending of billions of tax dollars every year.
Plaintiffs Citizens for National Security sued Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Education in Palm Beach County Court. The plaintiffs describes itself as a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, which is “committed to keeping our country safe from threats to our national security, especially threats from extremist, violent, religious groups and other radical ideologies that are based in the United States as well as those that often have ties or are based in foreign nations and promote hate and violence toward our country.”
The group says Florida SB 2120 takes the power of textbook review and approval out of the hands of large groups with public representation, and puts it into the hands of a 2-member board which cannot possibly be expected to review fairly the thousands of textbooks used in Florida school within 4 months, as required by the bill.
It claims that SB 2120 violates the Florida Constitution, which promises students the right to a “high quality education.”
And it says that Gov. Scott is actively hostile to public schools, and intends to undermine them.
The complaint states: “Due to political reasons, Governor Rick Scott opposes the provisions of Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution, which provides that all children in Florida are entitled to a high quality system of free public schools and to the contrary seeks to undermine the public education system by encouraging the flight of children from public schools to private schools where they can be indoctrinated into religious beliefs, and to encourage and facilitate the religious indoctrination of children who remain in the public schools.”
The group claims that Scott directed the removal of former Education Commissioner Eric Smith, who supported public schools, and replaced him with Gerald Robinson, “who shares the governor’s antagonism for public education, and desire to indoctrinate our children.”
It claims that Scott chose Robinson because Robinson had “undermined the public educational system” in Virginia, and “permitted religious views to infiltrate the public school system.”
Scott then “purged and/or pressured to resign” the other members of the State Board of Education and replace them with members who share his hostility to public schools, the group says.
The group specifically challenges the textbook-selection aspects of Senate Bill 2120, which was enacted on July 1 this year. It claims that the bill requires that all textbooks used in Florida schools must be reviewed “by only two ‘state or national experts’ in approximately 4 months.”
If the two experts disagree, a third “state or national expert” will be called in to “decide if there is any bias, intolerance or inaccurate information in any of the 1000s of currently used and proposed school textbooks that are typically 800-900 pages in length, and whether to accept or reject them for use in Florida’s public schools,” the complaint states.
The group says it will be impossible for two people to do this. It claims that before SB 2120 passed, it did “an extensive 14-months research on flawed history and geography textbooks being used in Florida’s K-12 public schools,” and that before SB 2120, the state’s review process for history and geography textbooks alone “required the reviews of more than 40 people, and took approximately one year to complete.”
It claims that SB 2120 “renders it impossible for any meaningful review of textbooks to take place, and all but assures that the education of the students of Florida will be inaccurate, biased and substandard.”
The group claims that Scott particularly wants his appointed “cronies” to “deny the truth of evolution.”
The group claims SB 2120 violates the Florida Constitution’s guarantee of a high quality education, and also violated the Constitutions single-subject rule on legislation. It claims that SB 2120 “furthers the governor’s goal of politicizing our public schools and potential brainwashing of children in order to share the governor’s and his political cronies’ support and endorsement of religion, by keeping the overview of textbooks in our public schools a secret, and by facilitating the inclusion of textbooks which advance religion.”
It wants enforcement of the law enjoined. It is represented by Barry Silver of Boca Raton.