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New lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott is over new textbook adoption law

TALLAHASSEE — A volunteer group formed out of concern about terrorism will sue Gov. Rick Scott today for what it deems a threat to public schools: new textbook adoption policies.

Citizens for National Security, based in Boca Raton, wants a judge to toss out a new law that delegates the review of state education materials to just two people, saying the state will be unable to provide high-quality education as a result.

"It is not possible for two people to review all the textbooks in Florida within a four month period of time," reads the complaint.

The lawsuit, to be filed in Palm Beach County circuit court, names Scott and the Department of Education as defendants. It will be the ninth notable lawsuit naming Scott as a defendant since his inauguration.

He signed SB 2120, a conforming bill with many education changes, into law May 26. Citizens for National Security blames Scott for not using a line-item veto to block the textbook provision.

"We believe that he was one of the driving forces behind this effort to streamline these procedures and to push his agenda rather than listen to one of the voices of the people of Florida," said lawyer, rabbi and former Democratic state Rep. Barry Silver. "It's kind of consistent with how he governs."

Scott spokesman Lane Wright dismissed the complaint as a sensational trick.

"This isn't the first time Gov. Scott has been inappropriately added to a lawsuit where he's not a proper defendant," Wright said. "This is all just a ploy to get media splash and any good lawyer would know better."

The old textbook adoption process required a committee of at least 10 members — including teachers and a school board member — to review materials and make recommendations to the state education commissioner.

The new process leaves the job to two subject matter experts selected by the commissioner, with a third breaking a tie.

The agency pushed the changes, citing cost savings derived from digital reviews of materials and not paying substitutes for taking over classrooms of the teachers on the committee.

But Citizens for National Security complains that the law does not provide for transparency in the experts' discussions.

"In the process, they disenfranchised not just us but all citizens from the selection of textbooks," said William Saxton, Citizens for National Security chairman.

Saxton said the group conducted a 14-month research project on history and geography textbooks in Florida public schools and found evidence of Islamic bias. The goal of the project is to remove "Islam-biased, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian" texts from middle- and high-school classrooms nationwide, according to its website.

The Citizens for National Security lawsuit is the latest legal assault on policies implemented by the new governor. People have filed lawsuits against Scott for his decision to halt a federal review of redistricting standards; his administrative rules suspension; his refusal of high-speed rail money; state election law revisions; restrictions on doctors asking patients about gun ownership; his order for drug testing of state employees; and state pension changes.

Another suit filed on behalf of 19,000 developmentally disabled people over waiting lists for certain Medicaid services names Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek and Scott as defendants.

Scott's office says his name has been removed from the doctors-and-guns lawsuit, and his lawyers have filed to dismiss him from other lawsuits as well.

They said they plan to do the same for this one.

Inside

Scott, a multimillionaire, is taking advantage of state officials' cheap health plan. 3B

New lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott is over new textbook adoption law 08/10/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 11:16pm]
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