In the name of “curriculum transparency,” Florida’s Republican-controlled state government has appointed several anti-gay and anti-mask conspiracy theorists to take charge of a new effort at public schools: banning books.
This hastily assembled censorship council—tasked with retraining public school librarians to abide by new restrictions—is the latest ploy in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ crusade to upend the state’s education system.
But the council was also staffed under suspicious circumstances, with the state Education Department ignoring its own call for official candidates from local school districts and instead filling most of the slots with right-wing activists who have a history of proposing book bans. One was even nominated by a religious activist with close ties to the DeSantis administration a week before the department publicly called for candidates, according to government emails, hinting at secret coordination between them.
“It calls into question the process that the Florida State Board of Education is trying to implement. It raises significant transparency questions,” said Megan Uzzell at Democracy Forward, which obtained those government emails.
While the “parent workgroup” is only getting started, the Education Department’s recent meeting in Orlando last week revealed how the state is positioning itself to spread those controls from school libraries to teachers’ classrooms.
As the meeting ended, Clinton McCkracken, the head of the Orange County teachers union, made a comment to another parent: “I don’t know what to tell my teachers.”
The working group is scheduled to meet again publicly this coming Tuesday, when it will present the slides that address what these conservatives deem offensive material—and is expected to spark more protests from worried parent groups already battling these book bans, like Florida Freedom to Read Project.
“The goal is to have the most conservative counties determine what the rest of the state has access to. It’s to allow a conservative ideology to hold rank over the rest of us,” said the project’s co-founder, Stephana Ferrell. “That’s what all of this is about. The attack on teachers, the banning of books—they need parents to not trust public education, so that they’re fed up and take taxpayer dollars into the for-profit education sector.”