Gov. DeSantis signs changes to book challenges, charters and higher education into law

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a package of education reforms at Jacksonville Classical Academy Tuesday morning.


Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1285 into law here at Jacksonville Classical Academy this morning.

The new law will expedite the process of converting failing traditional public schools into charter schools if a district’s turnaround plan fails to get the school back to at least a C grade.

DeSantis argued there have been instances where school districts have slow-rolled their efforts to get failing schools back on track.

“We don’t have that kind of time. If you are in a school that is getting F grades, we can’t be satisfied with that. We have to do something about it,” said DeSantis.

Under the new law, school districts would have to allow a charter operator to begin an evaluation of a failed turnaround school by October 1st of the following school year and relinquish control to the charter by July 1st.

“If the district wants to remediate with the tools that are provided in law to do it, they have every right to do that. I think a lot of times bringing in an outside operator like a charter school probably is going to be more effective,” said DeSantis.

Here in Duval, seven charter schools earned a D or an F grade last year.

That’s about 16% of the county’s charter schools, compared to just 6% of the county’s traditional public schools that earned D or F grades

Andrew Spar with the Florida Education Association pointed to Jefferson County and the failed effort to hand the entire school district over to a charter operator as evidence charters aren’t always the solution.

“After five years the charter school company failed. They said they couldn’t do it and they walked away and public schools were returned back to the public in Jefferson County,” said Spar.

The new law also limits book challenges to just one a month for residents of a school district who don’t have a child in the local school system to crack down on serial and frivolous challenges.

In Northeast Florida, one of the most persistent book challengers Bruce Friedman may be exempt from the new restrictions, as he claims to have a student enrolled in Clay County.

Friedman has been responsible for more than a third of all book challenges filed in the state.

Governor DeSantis noted DOE will also have the ability to hold bad actors within the school system accountable.

“Some of those bad faith actions have been done from people within the school system, who are doing that to create a narrative. So, Manny will be able to those folks accountable because clearly there’s nothing in Florida law that would tell you to do that,” said DeSantis.

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Spar took offense to DeSantis blaming school personnel for the state’s book ban controversies.

“They want to investigate teachers and administrators who allowed all these books to be pulled off the shelves to make a political point is what he said? No. It was the Governor’s legislation, the Governor’s own words, in which he encouraged people who don’t even have kids in public schools to have books pulled off of public shelves,” said Spar.

The legislation also requires traditional public and charter schools to offer 11th and 12th-grade students the opportunity to take the ASVAB Test and consult with a military recruiter.

It also encourages school districts to offer dual enrollment so students can earn college credit in high school and prohibits universities from disallowing students to work through school.

DeSantis argued the changes would help improve Florida’s educational standing and make college more affordable for Florida students.

“So, all in all that’s a lot stuff for one piece of legislation. I think it’s going to be very positive and we’re just gonna continue to lead the way,” said DeSantis.

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