TALLAHASSEE — Florida House on Thursday passed a measure to increase scrutiny of school library books and teaching materials, while also supporting eight-year limits on school board member terms.
The Republican-controlled House voted 78 to 40 along almost straight party lines to approve the bill (HB 1467). It’s one of the most controversial education proposals of the 2022 legislative session, with Democrats casting it as advancing a “culture war” issue.
Under the measure, parents of students in school districts should be included on committees that make recommendations to school boards on the “ranking, disposal, or selection” of instructional materials.
School districts should also adopt procedures that would allow for the “regular removal or abandonment of books” from school libraries based on factors such as the books’ relevance to the curriculum and alignment with the academic standards of the school. State.
Bill sponsor Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island, defended the bill against attacks from Democrats during a floor debate Thursday.
“What this bill seeks to do is provide transparency to build the security and confidence for parents that comes with knowing they can drop their children off at the local library and be there. ‘easy. They want to encourage their kids to go to the library,” Garrison said.
But D-Aventura Rep. Joe Geller called the measure “very burdensome” because of the policies it would force local education officials to adopt.
“I think it’s a lot of bureaucracy. I think every responsible school board takes the advice of parents. I don’t think we need each of these school districts working to have another policy that will be debated and edited and adopted,” Geller said.
While Republicans say the measure aims to amplify the voice of parents in raising their children, the bill would also give the public greater access to review books and other reading materials.
For example, the bill would require school districts to post lists of all educational materials on publicly viewable websites. Elementary schools should post lists of all books and materials in school media centers.
Rep. Mike Gottlieb, D-Davie, pushed back on the part of the bill that would give anyone the ability to inspect school book lists.
“Giving a racist who lives anywhere in the world the ability to infiltrate our communities and spread his hatred by banning a book that my child might read, that might redirect him, is wrong,” Gottlieb said.
Democrats also targeted a portion of the bill that would cap school board members at eight years.
Rep. Susan Valdes, a Tampa Democrat who is a former Hillsborough County School Board member, argued that the public can already vote against board members in the election.
“Do we need to get rid of bad players? Absoutely. That’s why we have elections,” Valdes said. “My friends, let us reflect on the educational system put in place for our children. And let’s not make it harder and more bureaucratic to get there.
Democrats also questioned why term limits would not be addressed through a proposed constitutional amendment.
But Rep. Joe Harding, R-Williston, argued that school board members should have term limits, just like state lawmakers.
“I believe in term limits. If they’re good enough for this body, they’re good enough for the President of the United States, they should be good enough at all levels in all elected positions,” Harding said.
Rep. Andrew Learned, D-Brandon, was the only House member to cross party lines, joining Republicans in voting for the bill. A similar Senate bill (SB 1300) must be approved by the Rules Committee before it can be considered by the prosecution.