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Bill to prevent California school textbook bans is in limbo

Bill to prevent California school textbook bans is in limbo

An Inland Assemblymember’s bill, intended to prevent school boards from banning textbooks that teach California’s ethnic diversity and cultural history, is in a holding pattern after a state Senate committee vote Monday, Aug. 21.

With no discussion, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to place AB 1078 in the “suspense file,” a procedural limbo for bills that commit the state to spending money. At a later date, the committee could either release the bill from the file and allow it to move forward or keep it in that status, effectively killing it.

Sponsored by Assemblymember Corey Jackson, D-Perris, AB 1078 would require school boards, when adopting learning materials, “to ensure the accurate portrayal of the cultural and racial diversity of our society.”

It also would requires a two-thirds supermajority vote by school boards seeking to remove a book or curriculum. Schools could lose funding if their educational materials don’t meet California Department of Education content standards.

Assemblymember Corey Jackson, D-Perris, said AB 1078 is “crucial in our commitment to prevent book banning in California schools, ensuring an inclusive and diverse educational environment for our students.” (Screengrab from State Assembly live stream)

Chino Valley Unified School District President Sonja Shaw told a state Senate committee that AB 1078 “is a blatant overreach and undermines the power of local boards and disfranchises the voters.” (File photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Temecula Valley Unified School District board member Jen Wiersma said that if AB 1078 passes, “curriculum costs and legal costs will skyrocket. And the financial losers are the students and the taxpayers.” (File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Jackson called Monday’s committee vote “a natural step in the legislative process.”

“I remain confident that through collaboration with the governor and my colleagues in the legislature, we will further strengthen AB 1078,” he said in an emailed statement. “This bill is crucial in our commitment to prevent book banning in California schools, ensuring an inclusive and diverse educational environment for our students.”

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AB 1078, which has Gov. Gavin Newsom’s backing, passed the Assembly in a party-line vote in May. It cleared the Senate Education Committee by a 5-2 vote in July.

Jackson, who is Black, has said his bill is needed to counter “the rise of White Christian nationalist extremism, which seeks to erase the invaluable contributions and narratives of marginalized communities.”

Critics, especially conservatives, contend the bill would usurp the right of local school boards to determine what children should learn. They see AB 1078 as a Sacramento power grab that could expose children to harmful, divisive and even pornographic material.

Chino Valley school board member Sonja Shaw and Temecula Valley school board member Jen Wiersma appeared in person at Monday’s hearing to urge the committee to kill AB 1078.

The bill “will put California into more financial ruin, and continue the process of edging parents out of their children’s education,” Shaw said, adding that it is “a blatant overreach and undermines the power of local boards and disfranchises the voters.”

Wiersma said the bill would force school districts “to replace newly adopted curricula in all subject areas.”

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“AB 1078 prevents school boards from removing instructional materials which predisposes school districts to lawsuits by parents based upon curriculum containing sexual harassment and criminal obscenity,” she said.

“If AB 1078 passes, curriculum costs and legal costs will skyrocket. And the financial losers are the students and the taxpayers.”

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Dozens of people from across California, many wearing buttons reading “Support Parental Rights,” lined up at the hearing podium to briefly express their opposition to the bill. Still more called into the hearing by phone to urge the committee to reject the bill.

Textbook bans have become headline news recently across the country as conservatives, fresh off winning school board majorities in fall, approve what they describe as curriculums that teach children the basics and avoid what they call left-wing indoctrination.

This summer, Temecula’s school board temporarily blocked an elementary social studies curriculum over concerns it contained inappropriate material. A teacher’s supplement in the curriculum mentioned slain LGBTQ civil rights icon Harvey Milk, whom two board members called a “pedophile.”

Newsom threatened to send textbooks to Temecula and fine the school district $1.5 million if  it didn’t adopt the curriculum, which the board eventually did.

In April, the Murrieta Valley school board rejected an 11th-grade social studies textbook on the grounds it contains elements of so-called critical race theory and negatively portrays former President Donald Trump.

These efforts faced opposition from those who accuse school board conservatives of supporting a slanted, inaccurate view of U.S history.