Bill opposing textbook bans moves through Senate Education Committee

CalMatters photo via iStock

A bill making its way through the California Legislature would make it more difficult for school districts to ban textbooks. The bill would require a two-thirds vote of a school board to remove books or other instructional materials.

Districts could face financial penalties if they don’t provide books and materials that accurately reflect the diversity of the state’s students, according to the bill. School boards could appeal through their county board of education.

A hearing on the bill Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee drew passionate responses in support and opposition.

Assembly Bill 1078, authored by Assemblyman Corey Jackson and supported by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, was a response to a decision by Temecula Valley Unified board members last month to remove a textbook from the curriculum because it included information about gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

The curriculum was meant to replace outdated textbooks and had already been vetted by 47 Temecula Valley Unified teachers who taught the material in 18 elementary schools as part of a pilot program throughout the year, according to KABC Los Angeles. It was also approved by the California Department of Education.

“Parents in our district have become increasingly worried that school boards will begin to strip away their rights for their children to receive a full and inclusive history education, and teachers are concerned that they will now be tasked with either creating their own aligned materials or using very outdated books,” testified Carolyn Thomas, a Temecula Valley Unified teacher.

“We also find ourselves in the precarious position of determining how to teach the required state standards, while simultaneously complying with our employer’s decision to restrict us from teaching about the historical contributions of diverse individuals,” she said.

The California School Boards Association was among the organizations that agreed with the intent of the bill but said it would create significant complications for school districts.

The CSBA is opposed to the financial penalties in the bill; the uniform complaint process, which would duplicate oversight; and the requirement that a public notice that includes the name of the district’s board members be posted on various public websites if a district fails to comply with the bill, said Carlos Machado, legislative advocate for the CSBA.

“We think that this is going in the wrong direction and could eventually hurt the district, its programs, employees, and the students that are served by the district by withholding funds from the district,” he said.

The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee and referred to the Committee on Appropriations with the understanding that its author would meet with representatives of the California School Boards Association and other stakeholders to further amend the bill.

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *