Posted on September 29, 2023

Newsom to Fine Schools That Ban Books Over Race, Sexual Orientation

Blake Jones, Politico, September 25, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a bill to curb book bans — his most concrete policy rebuke of attacks on instruction about race and sexual orientation that have taken root in more conservative enclaves of California.

Under the new law, which will take effect immediately, the state will fine schools that block textbooks and school library books for discriminatory reasons. It will also charge districts for replacement textbooks when they fail to purchase curriculum aligning with state anti-discrimination laws. That provision was added to the legislation at the behest of the Newsom administration earlier this year when the Democratic governor was dueling with a conservative school board in Southern California. The bill passed by a two-thirds margin despite opposition from Republicans and the California School Boards Association.


Administration aides made Assembly Bill 1078 from Assemblymember Corey Jackson their main vehicle for addressing actions by a group of GOP-backed school board candidates who’ve leaned into cultural wedge issues since being elected last fall. {snip}


The new law, prohibiting schools from blocking books because of their representation of a certain race, gender or other identity group, is an uncommon incursion into California school boards’ ability to govern themselves. Boards did have to follow anti-discrimination laws, but those requirements lacked associated financial penalties that will now be imposed.

Backed by state schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond, the new law will allow the superintendent to determine whether a district has failed to comply with state curriculum laws {snip}


Few other states have passed laws punishing book restrictions with fines. Illinois’ Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker earlier this year signed into law the nation’s first prohibition of book bans, which would fine public libraries for blocking content.