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Florida governor signs education bills focused on state standards

By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Three education bills designed to push back against what conservative Republicans consider federal intrusion into local authority over schools were signed into law on Monday by Florida Governor Rick Scott.

"The legislation I am signing today will ... reaffirm that Florida school boards will select the textbooks with historic opportunities for public input," Scott, a conservative Republican up for re-election, said in announcing his bill signings.

Skepticism is strong in Tea Party Republican circles, Scott's political base, towards education policies originating in Washington.

One of the new laws gives county school districts final responsibility for selecting instructional materials, allowing parents to protest texts and other materials at public hearings.

The measure by Republican state Senator Alan Hays was prompted partly by complaints from parents who felt some books unfairly presented foreign cultures and doctrines, such as sharia law, in public schools.

Another measure, by Republican Senator Dorothy Hukill, forbids schools and county districts to collect "biometric" information from students, including fingerprint, palm print and other identification information.

It also requires schools to phase out use of Social Security numbers when enrolling students, replacing them with random identification numbers.

The third education bill Scott signed eliminates all references in Florida law to new national standards known as the "Common Core" curriculum.

"We will continue to have the highest standards for Florida students because we know our students can compete with the best in the world and succeed," Scott said in a prepared statement issued by his Capitol office.

Scott last year pulled Florida out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a multi-state consortium working to develop a national set of standards for testing students.

(Editing by Kevin Gray)

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