Some education leaders are saying a new law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom—banning school boards from excluding books with topics related to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation—strips local control away from communities and complicates the work of local school districts and will be costly.
The new law, Assembly Bill 1078, additionally requires a two-thirds vote by a school board to exclude a book for any other reason, as well as audits of library and classroom books, with potential fines for districts that have insufficient diverse instructional materials, per California Department of Education’s standards.
The new law went into effect immediately after it was signed by the governor Sept. 25.
“[Assembly Bill 1078] represents everything that is wrong with groupthink and Sacramento,” Lance Christensen, vice president of education policy at policy advocacy group California Policy Center, told The Epoch Times. “Any local school board that decides they want a better curriculum for their students, that represents their community standards while abiding by state law, will be run over by malcontent special interests and bureaucrats.”
Mr. Christensen additionally said the logistics of the bill are confusing and create a new, heavy workload for both school administrators and the state Department of Education.
Districts will also have to spend more money ensuring they are compliant with the new policy, he said.
“If you have more considerations for your curriculum, they require more oversight, which means either you're going to have your superintendent or his staff spending more time looking through all this material or they're going to have to hire somebody else to go through and make sure they're uber compliant,” he said.
The California School Board Association, which also opposed the bill, was not immediately available for comment.
"Furthermore, a district may not be given time to investigate or correct the issue—something that is generally permitted in existing statutes and regulations—before the [superintendent] intervenes,” the association’s statement said.
Mr. Newsom, along with the bill’s author, Assemblyman Dr. Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), both have referenced local governing boards who recently rejected books containing critical race theory—an ideology that, in part, divides society into oppressors and oppressed based on race—and gender ideology.
Several Southern California school boards this year—such as the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified and Temecula Valley Unified—passed policies banning the teaching of critical race theory.
In response to the new law, Temecula Valley President Joseph Komrosky told The Epoch Times in a Sept. 25 email that he was elected by the Temecula community to represent and serve their interests and argues that it takes away the power from the community.
“[Assembly Bill 1078] strips the power away at the local level for school board members all across this state and reveals the corruption from our California state politicians who supported this bill,” Mr. Komrosky said.
The Temecula school board also gained statewide attention this summer when it twice rejected, then ultimately approved, an elementary social studies textbook Mr. Komrosky, deemed inappropriate for its inclusion of LGBT activist Harvey Milk.
Mr. Komrosky called the late activist a “pedophile,” saying he did not refer to Mr. Milk’s sexual orientation but instead to reports he had a sexual relationship with a minor as an adult.
His comment gained attention from the governor, who threatened to send copies of the contested “Social Studies Alive” to Temecula students and to enact legislation that would fine the district $1.5 million if its board didn't approve the textbook.
However, the board later voted to approve the curriculum in July with the recommendation that teachers swap the material that includes Mr. Milk with something more “age appropriate.”
No lawsuits are planned against the new law, according to both Mr. Komrosky and Mr. Christensen, the California Policy Center vice president, who said the bill was so poorly written that legislators will likely “quietly” pass another bill clarifying and streamlining the processes next year.
“If we have a system of the school boards that have to [ask permission from] the state every single time they want to address a textbook or piece of curriculum within their district, it will become a massive bureaucratic nightmare that will take up more time dealing with the compliance than actual education,” Mr. Christensen said.
However, he said he hoped the new law would serve as a wake-up call to parents, encouraging them to make their own decisions about their children’s education.
“This unwieldy law will prove to be ineffective in the long run as parents make the final decisions about the education of their children,” he said.