May 24, 2022

BAD CALCULATION: Florida math textbook bans give VA Gov. Youngkin’s old company a monopoly

BAD CALCULATION: Florida math textbook bans give VA Gov. Youngkin's old company a monopoly

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The state of Florida is continuing its war against free speech by censoring math textbooks meant for public schools. The absurd reason given by Florida’s Education Department for doing this is that the texts make references to critical race theory, “prohibited topics, and “unsolicited strategies.”

It was not disclosed to the public how the 54 math books that were rejected, which totaled 41% of the 132 textbooks submitted for approval, specifically referenced critical race theory or any of the claims made by the state.

When I saw this story, it got me interested beyond the censorship aspect, which of course is bad enough. A colleague who works in academia pointed out to me that it’s likely that this is a ploy to pick and choose publishers who have political or business relationships with some of the stakeholders. I agreed and said it was worth investigating if indeed this is a way for members of the committee making these decisions to engage in self-dealing.

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Turns out we were right to be concerned. After Florida’s sweeping ban on over 50 textbooks, the ONLY publisher allowed for K-5 math classes is a company called Accelerate Learning, based out of Houston, Texas. As it turns out, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia was the CEO of The Carlyle Group up until 2020, which is a global investment firm that acquired Accelerated Learning in 2018.

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What was the first thing that Youngkin did when he was elected governor of Virginia? He issued an executive order similar to DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act”, which sought to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory, and restore excellence in K-12 public education in the commonwealth.”

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This has not gone unnoticed by school administrators. Billy Epting, who serves as the assistant superintendent for Leon County Schools in Florida, stated that “in the subject area as large as mathematics for grades K through five, it is unusual for there only to be one publisher to choose from”.

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It’s still unclear if this is all just a giant coincidence or if Republicans are using their efforts to censor ideas they don’t like in public schools to also steer contracts towards publishers they have relationships and investments with. To me, it’s highly suspicious that the only Math textbooks now available for Florida school districts in grades K-5 have a direct connection to a Republican governor who is also pushing the same censorship agenda.

Are more Republican governors going to censor school textbooks to steer contracts from Accelerated Learning or other companies that they are connected to?

As always in American politics, follow the money to get answers.

Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.

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Thomas Kennedy

is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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