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Push to diversify educational textbooks in California

A special task force convened on Wednesday. One of the bills discussed would increase the threshold needed for local school districts to ban books.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For the first time, the state’s task force on inclusive education met in the Capitol. The topic of the meeting was how to diversify textbooks in California. 

Thurmond called on publishing firms to pledge to diversify their textbooks and resources and to work with the task force. Thurmond said representatives from Benchmark Education, CPM Educational Programs, The College Board, and Studies Weekly provided examples of what their companies are doing to provide broader narratives and depictions that are inclusive of stories and histories of often-underrepresented groups.

“It is proven that when students see images that look like them or content about their experience, they do better academically and socially,” Thurmond said.

The task force is also supporting three bills. AB5 by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-West Hollywood) requires all teachers and staff to take LGBTQ+ cultural competency training. 

“Provides the training that teachers want and need to support LGBTQ and all students,” Zbur said.

AB1352 by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D- Oakland) requires local school districts to follow the state’s policies, curriculum, and practices. It also allows a school board member by a 2/3rd vote to be removed for not following the state. 

“This is about addressing systemic bias as its whole," Bonta said. "I'm thankful that this task force will lead us in that direction."

Then there’s AB1078 by Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D- Perris). It would require a 2/3rd vote to ban any material and then set up an appeals process for the state to review the decision. This is based on what Jackson said, the details are not in the bill yet. 

“A critical response to ensuring that we put the brakes on the banning of books,” Jackson said. 

Thurmond said no Republicans were involved in the task force. 

“Not that I'm aware of, at least not to date, but we welcome the participation of members from any party," Thurmond said. "This isn't a partisan issue”

Republican Assemblymember Bill Esseyli found out about it because of our interview request for this story. 

“I would have loved to join and actually have a productive conversation about how we improve our schools?" Essayli said. "How do we have equal education for all kids, regardless of their zip code, regardless of their income bracket?”

He opposed the bills the task force is supporting. 

“I think Corey Jackson is a radical member of this house, and anything he proposes should be viewed with great skepticism," Essayli said. "When I look at this bill, it looks like he's trying to indoctrinate the kids at schools with his ideology. It requires the California Department of Education to issue guidance on how to have conversations about race and gender.”

Why did Essayli call Jackson a radical? In part because of this Tweet.

Assemblymember Corey Jackson recently called Assemblymember Essayli- who is the only Muslim lawmaker- a perfect example of when a minority becomes a white supremacist for voting against a measure that would bring back affirmative action in California. 

In 1996 California voters passed a measure to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in public employment and education. 

Something Governor Newsom says quite often is “localism is determinative,” meaning the state can make policy but it's up to the locals to deliver.

Are these measures taking away local control? Thurmond says yes but for good reason. 

"There is no doubt that this is a state with local control is a practice and a priority," Thurmond said, "but as you've heard from my colleagues, there are at least two bills that aim to make to curtail the actions of those who are hiding racism and hate under the guise of local control. Local Control doesn't give you the right to inflict pain."

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