Florida Rejects Dozens of Math Textbooks Over Alleged References to CRT

Florida's Republican-led government has some of the strictest rules outlawing critical race theory (CRT) in classrooms. On Friday, the state's education department said it rejected dozens of school math textbooks over alleged references to the academic framework.

A total of 54 out of 132 math books recently submitted for state review were found to be "impermissible with either Florida's new standards or contained prohibited topics," the Florida Department of Education (DOE) said in a press release. That marks the highest number of rejected textbooks in the state's history, the agency added.

At least 28 of those books, most of which were meant for grade levels K-5, were found to incorporate "prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT," according to the DOE.

"It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students," the state's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said in a statement. "I'm grateful that [Commissioner of Education Richard] Corcoran and his team at the Department have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law."

Ron DeSantis CRT
Florida's education department recently rejected dozens of math textbooks over alleged references to CRT. Above, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at CPAC on February 24 in Orlando. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The DOE did not include a list of the rejected books or provide any examples of how they held references to CRT or other "unsolicited" materials. However, the move comes as Florida and other Republican-led states are attempting to crack down on school curriculum.

Last year, Florida's board of education announced that it would ban the teaching of CRT in public schools—even though it had not been part of the state's curriculum before.

The academic theory describes how race, class, gender and sexuality affect American life, and teaches that racial injustice has been a systemic issue in U.S. history. Opponents to CRT have latched onto it as a "catch-all" for discussing race and have argued that it teaches students to harbor guilt or hate toward the country.

DeSantis previously referred to CRT as "toxic" and claimed that it would teach children to believe that "the country is rotten and that our institutions are illegitimate." Florida is one of several other states, including Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma, that have moved to ban the teaching of CRT in school classrooms.

More recently, Florida has been at the center of controversy regarding its Parental Rights in Education legislation, which critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The bill, which DeSantis signed into law late last month, prohibits classroom discussion "about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner."

The governor also recently signed a bill allowing parents to have a greater say in what books school libraries can carry. Now, school boards must let the public know when they plan to approve new instructional materials, and any objections must be reported to the state, the Associated Press reported. Florida currently ranks third in the number of school book banning incidents across the country, with over 200 books outlawed from July 2021 to March 2022, according to NBC Miami.

The DOE's latest decision to reject dozens of books was met with sharp criticism, with one social media user comparing the issue to "Mao's Cultural Revolution."

Democratic Florida state lawmaker Anna Eskamani said Friday that she requested a full list of the banned textbooks.

"I wonder if these math books highlighted statistics of racial disparities & that's what they don't like?," she asked on Twitter. "If those statistics make you uncomfortable maybe do something about it instead of erase them?"

Newsweek contacted the Florida Department of Education for comment.