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In the States: Florida Law has Sweeping Ramifications for Local School Districts

The “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature enacted measures to expand education transparency laws in the state. The new regulations involve stricter oversight of potentially explicit or sexually related content in books and/or any such text that could be considered “harmful to minors.”  Under the law, FL HB1069, such texts are required to be removed from shelves within five days and remain inaccessible to students. The actions are part of a broader effort led by Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis to exert greater control over the curriculum in schools.

However, as many expected, the law has sweeping ramifications for local school districts — including a possible financial hit. To comply with the law, an individual with a valid educational media credential must inventory classroom libraries. For one Florida county that means 10 certified media specialists are working through 98 schools with over 6,000 libraries. The time and personnel required to inventory all libraries has led many districts to contract with third party vendors to complete the process — the services are reported to cost anywhere from $34,000 to $135,000 annually. While outside vendors are certainly profiting from the work, a top executive noted that their company grappled with the decision to offer their services, expressing that working with Florida to implement the new law “tested our company’s culture like nothing before.”  The company maintains that students should have access to books “that provide windows to the experiences of others and mirrors to their own experience, including the stories of members of the LGBTQ community, indigenous people, and people of color.”