TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Education announced Friday the state has rejected more than 50 math textbooks from next school year's curriculum, citing references to critical race theory among reasons for the rejections.
In a news release, the department stated 54 out of 132 of the textbook submissions would not be added to the state's adopted list because they did not adhere to Florida's new standards or contained prohibited topics.
The release said the list of rejected books makes up approximately 41% of submissions, which is the most in Florida's history.
Reasons for rejecting textbooks included references to critical race theory, "inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics," the release states.
"Math is about getting the right answer. And we want kids to learn the things so they can get the right answer," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday during a news conference in Jacksonville. "It's not about how you feel about the problem or to introduce some of these other things. It's there's a right answer and there's a wrong answer."
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Critical race theory has become politicized in recent years, with opponents arguing the area of study is based on Marxism and is a threat to the American way of life. But scholars who study it say it explores the ways in which a history of inequality and racism in the United States has continued to impact American society today.
"Critical race theory is a practice. It's an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what's in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it," said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist and a law professor who teaches at UCLA and Columbia University.
Educators in multiple states have argued critical race theory is generally not included in grade school teaching.
Florida banned the teaching of critical race theory in schools in June 2021. At the time, Gov. Ron DeSantis said allowing critical race theory in schools would teach children that "the country is rotten and that our institutions are illegitimate."
According to the ban, instruction in schools must be "factual and objective." It specifically prohibits "theories that distort historical events" -- including "the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons."
Florida also banned teaching material from the 1619 Project, the New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning project to reframe American history around the date of August 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on America's shores.
In Jacksonville on Monday, DeSantis said some of the rejected textbooks contained references to Common Core, which are educational standards that have been replaced in Florida with new B.E.S.T. Standards.
"One of the criticisms was that parents couldn't help their kids with the math homework. So any of the books that don't meet the B.E.S.T. Standards are not gonna be appropriate for us to use," DeSantis said.
The highest number of books rejected were for grade levels K-5, where an "alarming" 71% were not appropriately aligned with Florida standards or included prohibited topics, the release said.
"Most of the books that did not meet Florida standards, for whatever reason, happened to be in the early grades," DeSantis said. "As you get into the older grades, most of those books did meet the standards."
DeSantis added that textbook publishers can appeal the rejections.
"Some of those textbooks will be able to say, hey, we should appeal. Some may agree to tweak some of the things," DeSantis said. "If there's Common Core math, maybe they'll be able to dial that back."
Despite rejecting 41% of materials submitted, every core mathematics course and grade is covered with at least one textbook, the release said.
“We want to make sure our kids are not being indoctrinated,” said Tiffany Justice of Vero Beach, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a group dedicated to supporting parental rights.
Justice said the textbook rejections are a response to so called, “woke math,” in how some problems are worded.
“It’s also this idea of feelings, how do you feel about the math problem and what Florida parents are saying is listen math can be hard sometimes and might be frustration but we’d like to keep the feelings out of it," Justice said.
Democrats view the textbook issue as another example of Republican politics in Florida.
“It’s another attempt to create hysteria and political controversy,” said State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.
Eskamani said she’s also not getting any answers about specific passages in the math books that flagged state reviewers.
“We don’t see the scoring criteria and what comments evaluators made or the letters the publishers received in response to their submission, we’re not going to get the full picture," Eskamani said.