Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Education

collier school building

“naples

The Collier County School Board approved a nominal cut in capital property tax rates at their Tuesday budget hearing as part of a $1.05 billion budget for next year.

Capital funds are those used for infrastructure projects in the school district, including the construction and maintenance of school buildings.

The approved millage rate for 2017-18 will be 1.48, or $148 per $100,000 of assessed property value, down from 1.50 this year. It’s estimated that the reduction will result in a difference of about $1.7 million by vice chair Erika Donalds, who championed the reduction.

“I’ve said this over the years, every year we can continue keep it at 1.50 and take advantage of the seemingly free money for government that is built into a market value increase…or we can be prudent. We really don’t have expenditures this year that we didn’t have last year,” Donalds said, attending the meeting via telephone. “We’re not building any new schools this year, we don’t have an extraordinary number of new students in terms of growth.”

1.48 was Donalds’ second crack at getting the millage rate trimmed down. She first proposed a reduction to 1.45 mils, which failed by a 3-2 vote. Donalds’ argument was that thanks to higher property values, the district would still bring in an extra $4.6 million in capital revenues.

“It’s not a lot of money we’re talking about here between the 1.45 and the 1.50. It’s a principled stance that we don’t need to charge the taxpayers more than we need or what is reasonable,” she said.

But board member Stephanie Lucarelli was concerned about the impacts of HB 7069, which gives a portion of capital property tax funds to charter schools.

“Considering HB 7069, I would not be in favor of lowering the capital because we already have an extra expenditure this year with that bill,” Lucarelli said.

Donalds contends that the share sent to charter schools from HB 7069 will be about $4 million, which would still be covered by the increase in revenues.

After the first vote failed, Donalds shifted into deal making mode. She immediately turned to a 1.48 millage rate, pointing out that it would still bring in $7.2 million in additional revenues over the current year, and then leaves $3 million in new funds even after the charter schools’ share.

Lucarelli still wasn’t convinced.

“Governor [Rick] Scott’s recommendation to the legislature was for education expenditures that were much higher than what went through. He lives in our district,” Lucarelli said, alluded to a previous public comment which referenced Scott’s property tax bill on his Naples home in support of cutting the tax rate. “The fact that he wanted more money to come to our schools, and what passed was much less, I don’t think that in any case this 1.50, which used to be 2.00, is something we need to go down on.”

But Board Chair Roy Terry was, and he flipped his vote to join Donalds and board member Kelly Lichter, passing the new tax rate on a 3-2 vote.

The other tax rates, the state required and district’s discretionary millage rates, which fund the school district’s operations such as teacher salaries, were left unchanged from the original proposal. The Florida Legislature reduced the state-required rate slightly, from 2.997 to 2.894 mils, but with appraised values up around 7.1 percent this year, homeowners will still see a net increase on their property tax bills.

In Lee County, the conversation was much less eventful, as their board approved a tentative $1.48 billion budget. There were no major adjustments, with a total millage rate of 6.679.

BY THE NUMBERS

Collier

Total Millage Rate: 5.122
State-required: 2.894
Discretionary: 0.748
Capital: 1.480

Estimated tax on residential properties
(Assessed value by property appraiser)
$150,000: $768.30
$200,000: $1,024.40
$250,000: $1,280.50
$300,000: $1,536,60

Lee

Total Millage Rate: 6.679
State-Required: 4.431
Discretionary: 0.748
Capital: 1.500

Estimated tax on residential properties
(Assessed value by property appraiser)
$150,000: $1,001.85
$200,000: $1,335.80
$250,000: $1,669.75
$300,000: $2,003.70


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“naples

The Lee County School District is moving forward with plans to take legal action against the state over the controversial education bill HB 7069, with the school board voting to sue the state on Tuesday.

Superintendent Gregory Adkins has been joined by many of the board’s members in vocally opposing the legislation which they have characterized as a bill that could devastate education funding. Board Member Steven Teuber said that while he generally preferred to avoid litigation he believes that if the public understood how the bill would allocate funds to charter schools they would support the legal challenge.

“I am not a fan of school districts or entities suing the state and I don’t like extra litigation for the taxpayers, but I think if every taxpayer understands that their taxpayer dollars are going to go to for-profit companies taken away from students in public facilities, they would understand,” said Teuber.

Board Attorney Keith Martin recommended that Lee join the two other districts, Broward and St. Lucie, who have already voted to sue the state because he believed that HB 7069 violated the Florida Constitution.

“It is my opinion that multiple provisions of that bill violate the constitutional authority of local school boards to operate, control, and supervise all public schools in the district,” Martin said.

Teuber agreed saying that he strongly objected to the loss of local control the bill represented.

“It is the most usurpation of school board control that I think I have ever witnessed,” Teuber said.

Martin said that while only two other districts had formally voted to pursue legal action a number had recently put the issue on their meeting agendas for discussion and he expected more to join the suit in the coming months.

While Lee was deliberating, they became one of three districts to join in the suit on Tuesday alone, as the district schools boards for Bay and Volusia Counties also voted in favor of legal action. Miami-Dade is expected to come to a decision Wednesday.

Down in Collier, the board did not formally discuss the lawsuit, but that didn’t stop members of the public from weighing in.

Some, like Beth Pavlow of the Coalition for Quality Public Education, urged the district to join the suit, arguing that the bill violated the state’s constitution by covering multiple issues, and its creation of the Schools of Hope charter program.

“The Coalition for Quality Public Education encourages you to join other Florida school districts in challenging the constitutionality of HB 7069,” Pavlow said. “The bill circumvents the constitutional mandate that public school districts control, supervise, and operate all schools in their district.”

Others, like Naples resident Joseph Doyle, supported the law.

“Quite frankly, we need to do more for charter schools,” Doyle said. “Parents have the right to school choice, and they should have the money follow the child.”

The law’s provisions on charter school funding and its full impact wasn’t discussed in detail, but board vice chair Erika Donalds estimated that it would send about $4 million in property tax revenues to charters in Collier County.

In board member communications at the end of the meeting, members appeared mixed on the matter.

“I don’t agree with that kind of distraction on our district,” Donalds said, who along with board member Kelly Lichter appeared opposed to the suit. “I don’t agree with taking this discussion any further.”

Board chair Roy Terry said the issue deserves further discussion from the board before a decision is made. Collier next meets on Aug. 8.

The lawsuit is currently a joint venture so the cost would be divided between all the districts that participate. The Lee board’s unanimous vote to move forward with the legal action authorized the district to initially spend up to $25,000 on the case.

R.J. Roan contributed to this report.


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“naples

The Lee County School Board will consider bringing legal action against controversial education bill HB 7069 during their meeting on Tuesday.

HB 7069, which was championed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, drew criticism from many including Lee County Superintendent Gregory Adkins because it was created as part of budget conference process rather than being proposed and voted on in the more traditional manner.

“HB 7069 was crafted behind closed doors,” said Adkins. “Legislators took dozens of bills that never would have passed on their own and crammed them into this, a bill that basically sets out to destroy public education. On top of that, it was released at the last minute without input from educators or citizens.”

Adkins and members of the school board held a press conference in June asking Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill at the end of session, but the governor did not strike down the law. According to Adkins, the bill could have a serious impact on the growing district’s ability to keep up with school construction and maintenance.

“We stand to lose $45 million dollars over the next five years in capital dollars alone,” said Adkins. “We can’t afford to do this. As you know, we are growing so fast we need to build nine schools in the next five years, not to mention all the maintenance on all the buildings we already have.”

If the board votes to move forward they would join two other districts, Broward and St. Lucie, as plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to have the bill declared unconstitutional. That number may grow as more Florida school districts are said to be discussing the issue. The cost of the suit will be split between the plaintiffs. Currently, it is estimated that the legal action will cost Lee $25,000.


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Senator Bill Nelson

News-Service-Florida-Logo-68x25BY | Lloyd Dunkelberger
The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE……… Meeting with college students and recent graduates dealing with the burden of student debt, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Friday outlined legislation that would cap rates on federal undergraduate loans at 4 percent and allow the refinancing of older loans at lower rates.

In describing his bill on the Senate floor earlier this week, Nelson said the class of 2016 graduated with a national average of $37,000 in student loans.

“Instead of sending our graduates off to be creative and conquer the world, we’re sending them with a tremendous amount of debt that they are struggling to afford,” Nelson said.

The Democratic senator also noted the federal government raised the interest rate on undergraduate loans from 3.76 percent to 4.45 percent on July 1 for loans issued in the coming academic year.

Under Nelson’s bill, interest rates on undergraduate loans would be capped at 4 percent. Graduate loans would be capped at 5 percent. And loans arranged by parents would be at 6 percent.

The legislation would also lift a prohibition against refinancing older loans, allowing students who have high-interest loans to refinance them under the caps. The bill would also eliminate a loan origination fee that the federal government charges.

“What we are trying to do is to make this more affordable and uniform,” Nelson said. “Now, if somebody says, `Well, that means that the government is going to subsidize when the rate goes higher than 4 percent,’ then that’s right. Why? Because to have an educated workforce is in the interest of the country.”

Nelson’s remarks came during a meeting in Tallahassee with six students who attend or recently graduated from Florida State University or Florida A&M University.

The students all described facing debt loads of more than $30,000, with interest rates as high as 6.8 percent.

Louis Baptiste, who graduated from Florida A&M and earned a law degree from Florida State, said he is employed at a Tallahassee law firm but faces more than $100,000 in loan repayments.

“The student loan debt, it’s real for me because right now I’m in the process of buying a home,” Baptiste said. “But the loan debt is actually preventing me at the current time from buying a home.”

Nelson said student loan debt, which tripled from $531 billion in 2006 to $1.3 trillion a decade later, is second only to home mortgage debt.

“You can take all the credit card loans in the entire country and it’s not as much debt as student loan debt,” Nelson said. “It tells you the enormity of the situation.”

Nelson isn’t the only Florida lawmaker interested in helping ease the loan burden on students. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., have filed a bill that would limit loan repayments to 10 percent of the student’s annual income, with a $10,000 offset.

For instance, a graduate who had a job paying $40,000 a year, would not have to make more than $3,000 in loan repayments, which represents 10 percent of $30,000.

Nelson called the Rubio-Warner legislation “a good idea” and said it could be incorporated in the loan reform package.

On other topics Friday, Nelson predicted the latest U.S. Senate health-care legislation, which seeks to repeal and replace Obamacare, is not likely to pass the chamber.

“I think it’s dead,” Nelson said. “I think there are going to be some broken Senate Republican arms, but they’ve got two (senators) against. They can’t afford another senator (to oppose the plan).”

Citing Medicaid cuts and the elimination of health-care coverage for “millions of people,” Nelson called the measure “just as bad” as earlier versions of the legislation advanced in Congress.

Nelson also said President Donald Trump should disband a “voter-integrity” commission after most states refused to turn over voter information to the federal panel.

“Why should the federal government collect every state’s information in one place so anybody that wants to go and hack that information, it makes it so easy for Vladimir (Putin) to suddenly go in and find out all kinds of personal things,” Nelson said.


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collier school building

“naples

Roy Terry has become the first to put his hat in the ring for 2018, as the incumbent will be running for a third full term on the Collier County School Board.

Terry filed his paperwork with the Collier Supervisor of Elections this week.

“I have a lot to offer to the board,” Terry said, who has spent about 40 years in the district starting as a teacher. “I know where we’re been, I know where we are, and I think I have an idea of where I want to see us grow in the future.”

Terry was appointed to the board in 2010 after the resignation of Richard Calabrese, then won election in 2010 and 2014. In, he defeated Thomas Andler for his second full term in office.

Since taking office, Terry said he’s seen a ton of improvement in the district, and wants to continue to be a part of that success. Earlier this month, Collier Schools ranked fifth among the state’s 67 counties when district and school grades were released.

“When I started back in 2010 the district school board and the district itself was looked at rather negatively throughout the state, and I think over the last seven or eight years we’ve changed that a lot,” Terry said. “I know that everyone I’ve talked to in the state thinks positively about Collier County and about the direction we’re going.”

“it’s a good feeling to know you’ve been a part of that over the years and it makes me want to believe that I could stay on for another term and continue that positive momentum.”

The board next meets on July 25, the first day of school for students is August 16.

“I just thinking this morning it’s unbelievable how quick the summer goes. When I was a student many years ago, it seemed like the summers lasted forever. Now that I’ve been a teacher, and a school board member and an administrator, the summers go back pretty quick and all of a sudden you’re back to work again,” Terry said.


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News-Service-Florida-Logo-68x25BY | Brandon Larrabee

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE……… Two University of Florida alumni have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, saying lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott funneled money that should have gone to higher education into tax cuts and savings.

The legal challenge, filed last week, is based on the Legislature’s decision not to provide matching funds for private donations to colleges and universities. State law creates four matching programs, and the plaintiffs argue that lawmakers are required to match the donations unless the state faces a budget shortfall.

The alumni, Ryan and Alexis Geffin — who graduated in 2016 and 2017, respectively — say they were harmed particularly because matching funds weren’t provided for construction projects at the University of Florida.

In all, the lawsuit says the state’s failure to fund the programs has locked up more than $1 billion that should have been available to colleges and universities, including at least $600 million in state matching funds and $460 million in private donations waiting for matches.

The filing also contrasts statements by Scott and legislative leaders touting the importance of higher education with the refusal to set aside funding for the matching programs.

“Rather than appropriate the over $600 million in state funds owed, the governor and the Legislature have spent general revenue surpluses on multibillion dollar tax cuts and to set aside billions in reserves,” it says.

The programs subject to the lawsuit include the Dr. Philip Benjamin Matching Grant Program, which primarily provides scholarships and financial aid; the University Major Gifts Program, aimed at encouraging donations to university endowments; and two construction-related funds, the Florida College System Institution Capital Facilities Matching Program and the Alec P. Courtelis University Facility Enhancement Challenge Grant Program.

According to the lawsuit, the problems began in 2008, when the state first faced shortfalls from the recession. Payments to the matching funds stopped, something that the legal challenge doesn’t contest.

But after the state again began running surpluses, lawyers for the alumni argue, the state should have resumed making the payments to the matching funds. Instead, the Legislature has continued to omit the funding.

“The state of Florida made a promise — a promise codified in Florida law and further reinforced in promises made to donors — and, there is no other way to put this, but the state reneged on that promise,” said Grace Mead, a lawyer with the firm Stearns Weaver Miller, which is representing the alumni. “The purpose of this suit is to force the state to fulfill that promise.”

According to Stearns Weaver Miller, UF could be due more than $155 million, while Florida State University, Florida International University and the University of South Florida could be owed more than $40 million each. Miami Dade College could be due more than $70 million.

Mead also said she expects a lawsuit on behalf of donors whose contributions weren’t matched.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who has made higher-education funding a priority, said Thursday that his office was reviewing the challenge. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education said the agency had not received the lawsuit, but would review it.


© 2017 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited. You can view the Terms of Use on our website.


“naples

Report cards arrived weeks ago for students, but Wednesday was the school’s turn, as the state released grades for schools and school districts.

And Collier County Public Schools officials were like ecstatic students when the data reached their hands.

“For us we really see it as a banner year,” district Superintendent Kamela Patton said Wednesday. “Thanks to our kids, obviously our students first, and our teachers and our parents. We’re also grateful for an outstanding community that supports us in many ways.”

After being a B district last year, Collier earned an A from the state for 2016-17. The district ranked fifth among the state’s 67 public school districts this year, up from 14th a year ago and 33rd six years ago. Collier was one of 11 school districts to earn an A rating.

“It’s a source of great pride to know we’ve moved that high,” Patton said.

Nearly half of the district’s schools are A schools, 25 of the 54 scored, with another 15 that earned a B. Only one school, Village Oaks Elementary, earned a D, and the district had no F schools for the second year in a row.

Not a single school in the district lowered their grade over the year, but 17 increased their letter grades. Four of them jumped two grades, with Estates, Shadowlawn, and Palmetto Elementary schools jumping from a C to an A.

“If there’s one word it’s systems. We have aligned systems,” Patton said. “There are many different systems we use but the fact is we use the same systems across all 50 schools. It’s about the unwavering focus on achieving for all kids, not just some kids.”

“Only 16 percent of the school districts got an A. It’s not like 80 percent got an A. It’s a validation of the systems that we have in place.”

The summer of 2016 was a frustrating one for Patton and district officials. Schools and districts were graded on factors which weren’t finalized by the state until January of that year. They had also dealt with years of change in how schools were graded: the retirement of the FCAT for FSA, the new scoring model with an emphasis on gains and improvement, and a series of metrics which were often working a year or more in arrears.

This summer, with a full year of no changes, Patton said the district, its teachers and its students, finally had a clear goal of what the expectations were.

“No business would’ve let an entire year go by, then wait another half a year to say how they’re going to measure how the business did,” she said. “This was the first year in a couple years where we actually knew the end goal.”

 

2016-17 SCHOOL GRADES

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Avalon Elementary School            C

Big Cypress Elementary School   A

Calusa Park Elementary School   B

Corkscrew Elementary School     B

Eden Park Elementary School      C

Estates Elementary School           A

Golden Gate Elem.                          C

Golden Terrace Elem.                     B

Gulf Coast Academy Charter       B

Highlands Elementary School      B

Immokalee Community                 B

Lake Park Elementary School       A

Lake Trafford Elem.                         C

Laurel Oak Elementary School    A

Lely Elementary School                  C

Manatee Elementary School       B

Mason Classical Academy             A

Mike Davis Elementary School    C

Naples Park Elementary School  A

Osceola Elementary School          A

Palmetto Elementary School       A

Parkside Elementary School         B

Pelican Marsh Elem.                        A

Pinecrest Elementary School       C

Poinciana Elementary School      B

Sabal Palm Elem.                              B

Sea Gate Elementary School        A

Shadowlawn Elem.                          A

Tommie Barfield Elem.                   A

Veterans Memorial Elem.             A

Village Oaks Elem.                           D

Vineyards Elementary School      A

MIDDLE SCHOOLS

Corkscrew Middle School              A

Cypress Palm Middle School        B

East Naples Middle School           A

Golden Gate Middle School         C

Gulfview Middle School                 A

Immokalee Middle School            C

Manatee Middle School                B

Marco Island Charter Middle       A

North Naples Middle School        A

Oakridge Middle School                A

Pine Ridge Middle School             A

HIGH SCHOOLS/ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS

Barron Collier High School            A

Everglades City School                   C

Golden Gate High School              C

Gulf Coast High School                   A

Immokalee High School                 C

Immokalee Teen Parenting          C

Lely High School                                B

Lorenzo Walker                                 A

Marco Island Academy                  A

Naples Teen Parenting                   *

Naples High School                          B

Palmetto Ridge High School         B

* Naples Area Teenage Parenting Program did not receive a grade in 2017 due to lack of students


© 2017 Naples Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FSW banner

“naplesby ARIEL LONG

U.S. News and World Report has released its annual rankings and two of our local high schools have been nationally recognized.

Formally known as Edison Collegiate High School, Florida SouthWestern State College Collegiate High School Lee (FSWC-Lee) and Charlotte (FSWC-Charlotte) were individually ranked Bronze in the 2017 academic report for best high schools in the nation.

To receive this acknowledgment, secondary institutions must show competence and prowess in various fields. They are being judged based upon common core data, advanced placement test, statewide proficiency test, and graduation rate gathered by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our collegiate high schools have earned many accolades, including high-performing charter school status and top ten rankings from Florida Department of Education. We appreciate the national recognition bestowed on us by U.S. News and World Report,” said Larry Miller, dean of FSW School of Education and Charter Schools.

Dean Miller acknowledges the school’s size as being a factor for such recognition because it allows students, faculty, and staff to have a more personal relationship. Due to this relationship, the students have the opportunity to prepare for the academic rigors of early college.

“Students and their families in Lee and Charlotte Counties are fortunate to have the choice to attend a large comprehensive high school or a small collegiate charter school based on their preferences and interests. We provided the traditional 9th and 10th experience…[but] FSWC early college approach is that students have the opportunity to graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate in Arts (A.A) degree from FSW, debt-free.”


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CCSO

“naplesTwo local students were awarded the William A. Christian Scholarship by Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk on Monday.

The scholarship was established in 2001 by Lois Fortunato to honor her late son, Deputy William A. Christian, who was killed in an automobile accident in September of 2000. Christian was a Collier Sheriff’s deputy from May 1996 until his death and also worked in law enforcement in Pasco County and New York. In addition, Christian served in the Navy for 10 years from 1971 to 1981.

Every year, the Collier County Sheriff’s office encourages the children and grandchildren of current or retired members to apply for the $2,500 award. Applicants who wish to compete for one of the two scholarship openings must be enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and have a grade point average of at least 3.5. Winners are chosen using a combination of factors including SAT scores, positive character, extracurricular and community participation, and writing sample explaining why they deserve the scholarship.

One of this year’s scholarship winners was Peter Resha, son of Cpl. Luis Cuevas, a 19-year member of the Sheriff’s office. Resha, who graduated from Naples High School this year, will be attending Texas A&M University to pursue a degree in finance and consulting. While in high school, he was a member of First Robotics and Mu Alpha Theta, volunteered at the Humane Society Naples, and served as an assistant to a youth pastor.

The other recipient of this year’s scholarship was Valentina Rendon, the daughter of Captain Timothy Guerrette, a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. Having graduated Gulf Coast High School this year, Rendon plans to attend the University Of Florida where she intends to earn a master’s degree in international finance. Rendon was an officer in a number of clubs in high school including Model United Nations, the Spanish Academic Team, and the Key Club, as well as being a member of organizations like National Honor Society and the Animal Alliance. She also worked as a student clerk in Collier County Sheriff’s Office and regularly volunteered for various events held by the CCSO.


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textbooks

Lee Herald Favicon 16After lengthy discussion and debate, the Collier County School Board voted to remove a high school law textbook from the district’s curriculum in a special meeting on Thursday.

The textbook, “Street Law: A Course in Practical Law,” was rejected unanimously after being brought to a hearing based on objections by parents and community members over the books’ contents. Many of the criticisms over the textbook centered over the book’s core focus.

“The Street Law textbook has a structural problem in its introduction,” said Steve Bracci, one of two parents objecting to the use of that specific book. “It takes potshots talking about human rights and international law in ways that aren’t appropriate for a United States school district textbook. We have a system in government in our country and that should be the starting point.”

Street Law was one of six books brought up for further review based on objections over content, tone, factual accuracy, and perceptions of bias. The other five, high school textbooks in economics, U.S. history, and government, along with an elementary school-level social studies textbooks were reaffirmed. All six books were originally approved in April.

All of the district’s materials were approved by a district committee before they went to the board for initial approval, but any objections over the content of specific textbooks were allowed to be heard by the board. Eight parents in total brought objections against the texts.

Around 30 people spoke during public comments, with a handful calling for the process to be scrapped and started over.

“The textbooks eliminated by these textbook committees, they were never made available to us. So there’s nothing for me to compare them to,” Bracci said.

An AP History textbook, “By the People, a History of the United States,” was addressed as a parent, David Bolduc, took issue with how the book treated discussion about the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.

“The Bill of Rights, the students don’t even see. I have a number of problems with [that],” Bolduc said.

At least in the case of “Street Law,” a new textbook will need to be found and approved by the board.

“I don’t think we’ll find one book that will satisfy everyone,” board member Stephanie Lucarelli said.

Lucarelli said it is teachers who handle the job of educating students, and that the textbooks are just resources to be used, not necessarily gone through cover to cover.

A lawsuit was filed against the district on Wednesday by three parents, Doug Lewis, Brantley Oakey, and Eric Konuk, along with the Florida Citizens Alliance, over the district’s process for selecting textbooks. In the complaint, the group contends that the process and books chosen violate state statutes.

“This is not a partisan issue. It is about our children’s future, following Florida laws, and adopting factual, unbiased textbooks that are not used to indoctrinate our children,” Keith Flaugh, director of the FLCA said in a statement. “Materials that contain factual errors, half-truths, important omissions and bias have no place in our classrooms.”


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