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### Florida Education Reform Bill Signed by DeSantis Restricts Book Challenges

Photo via DeSantis/Twitter

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday aimed at reducing challenges to school-library books and materials following over 1,200 objections filed last school year. The bill, known as HB 1285, not only addresses book challenges but also includes provisions to facilitate charter schools assuming control of underperforming traditional public schools.

The legislation concerning book challenges was prompted by recent measures passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and DeSantis that intensified scrutiny over library books and classroom materials. This move was influenced by publicized conflicts regarding book removals.

According to a Senate staff analysis, more than half of the 1,218 book objections during the 2022-2023 school year originated from Clay and Escambia counties. These objections led to the removal of 186 books in these counties alone.

Under the new bill, individuals who are not parents or guardians of students with access to school materials are restricted to objecting to only one material per month.

During a media event, DeSantis criticized those who abused the objection process, stating that some individuals made a “mockery” of the system by mass objecting to books. He emphasized the need to differentiate between legitimate concerns and attempts to disrupt the educational process.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. supported the bill, highlighting how the limitation on book challenges would streamline the review process for school districts.

In addition to addressing book challenges, the bill aims to enhance the process of charter schools assuming control of underperforming public schools. DeSantis emphasized the importance of expediting this process to ensure students receive quality education promptly.

Moreover, the bill mandates that charter operators assuming control of traditional public schools must cater to the same grade levels as the original schools, with the option to offer additional grades. It also introduces a new “classical education teaching certificate” for educators in classical charter schools, recognizing the unique requirements of such educational models.

The state’s focus on classical education reflects the growth in this sector, with 18 classical charter schools across nine districts. By creating specialized certification for classical teachers, the state aims to align professional development with the distinctive teaching methods employed in classical education settings.

The bill signing event in Jacksonville underscored the state’s commitment to innovation in education, emphasizing the importance of tailored certification for educators in diverse educational environments.