California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Thursday that the state would be picking up a conservative Southern California school district’s slack.
Last month, the board for the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which has several far-right members, voted 3-2 against approving elementary school social studies materials that briefly mentioned gay rights activist Harvey Milk. The board has not yet approved a replacement for the classroom material, according to a press release from Newsom’s office sent to HuffPost.
Newsom, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Senate President pro-Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson said they would provide textbooks to the district’s students ahead of their Aug. 14 school start date if their school board does not approve new material by its next meeting. The school board must apparently choose one of four textbooks approved by the state to teach in the coming year.
The rejected materials are approved across the state and would significantly update Temecula’s books, which have not been updated since 2006, according to the governor’s press release.
Additionally, Newsom, Thurmond, Atkins, Rivas and Jackson are seeking to push through state legislation that would fine school districts that do not provide their students with learning materials.
The news comes as Republicans across the country have sought to ban books or materials that mention race or the LGBTQ community. More than 2,571 books were banned or challenged across the country in 2022 alone.
“Cancel culture has gone too far in Temecula: radicalized zealots on the school board rejected a textbook used by hundreds of thousands of students and now children will begin the school year without the tools they need to learn,” Newsom said in a statement to HuffPost.
“If the school board won’t do its job by its next board meeting to ensure kids start the school year with basic materials, the state will deliver the book into the hands of children and their parents — and we’ll send the district the bill and fine them for violating state law.”
Dr. Joseph Komrosky, president of the district’s Board of Education, told HuffPost in a statement that Newsom and others have “mischaracterized not only what has occurred, but why.”
“The Board of Education of the Temecula Valley Unified School District did not ‘ban’ a book at its May 16, 2023 regular meeting. Instead, the Board of Education determined not to adopt as curriculum a history-social science program for District-wide use that had been part of a pilot study conducted by the District,” Komrosky said.
The pilot study included 1,300 students in the district.
Komrosky added that a large, but unspecified, number of stakeholders are working on putting together a curriculum that conforms to state standards to be run by the board on July 18.
He also maintained that there is another plan in place to ensure students get materials, should the curriculum not be approved at the July 18 meeting.
“Following the decision by the Board of Education in May not to adopt the pilot curriculum, the District made arrangements with the publisher of its currently adopted curriculum to provide enough textbooks for every single K-5 student of the District (which are the grade levels [affected] by this issue),” he added.
But Steven Schwartz, another board member, told HuffPost he supported the governor’s effort.
“I fully support the effort of the governor to help the students of TVUSD. I respect the expertise of the teachers who piloted the program and recommended it for use in our district. I voted to approve it and will do so again if it is proposed in our next agenda,” he said.
Board member Allison Barclay agreed with Schwartz.