Newsom's Plan To Fine School District $1.5 Million Over Blocked Textbook Lacks Legal Grounds

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Jul 23, 2023 - 01:30 AM

Authored by Micaela Ricaforte via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference after meeting with students at James Denman Middle School in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

There are currently no legal grounds for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to fine a local school district $1.5 million for rejecting what the school board says is an “inappropriate” social studies textbook, the state’s top education official confirmed July 20.

The governor announced the fine in a July 19 statement, adding that the state is securing the textbook in question for all 1–5 grade students in the Temecula Valley Unified Valley School District.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the anticipated passing of Assembly Bill 1078—a proposal that would prohibit local school boards from excluding books that contain LGBT and other minority groups—would allow the state to intervene in Temecula’s situation. The bill contains an urgency clause for it to take effect immediately should it pass the Legislature, Mr. Thurmond said.

Assembly Bill 1078 would establish this process and that bill is being heard in the legislature and it does have an urgency clause, so we’re waiting to see what happens with that bill,” Mr. Thurmond told The Epoch Times at an unrelated press conference in Chino, California, July 20. “We’re currently investigating the Temecula Valley Unified School District based on complaints from students about … LGBTQ+ student needs.”

California State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond holds a gender-affirming book during a news conference at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The bill will be heard in the state Senate Appropriations Committee after the lawmakers meet again in August after the summer recess.

Former state Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Riverside) was among the first to question the legality of Mr. Newsom’s plan.

It appears the governor is trying to create the authority to insert himself into [the district’s] business by leaning on the anticipated passing of [Assembly Bill 1078], which is still going through the legislative process,” Ms. Melendez told The Epoch Times before Mr. Thurmond’s response. “Aside from that, no one has explained who will determine compliance, and the governor’s office has yet to cite the legal authority that would give him justification to buy books a district doesn’t want, and then charge them for those books.”

Some also claim the governor lacks the authority to impose such consequences.

“The governor does not cite any legal authority for distributing the books to Temecula Valley … students or to allow the state to do so in place of the district,” said the California School Board Association in a statement posted on Twitter, adding that the current law requires the county superintendent to request the state provide textbooks if they are unable to provide such on their own.

Parents in support of the Temecula Valley Unified school board’s decision to terminate the district’s superintendent amid controversy surrounding critical race theory and other school curricula attend a board meeting in Temecula, Calif., on June 13, 2023. (Micaela Ricaforte/The Epoch Times)

In response to Mr. Newsom’s announcement, Temecula Unified board president Joseph Komrosky will call a special meeting for July 21 to consider other options for curriculums that meet state standards.

“Despite our continuing work and commitment to core values, Governor Newsom has taken unilateral action to intervene in the middle of our work without even contacting the school district first to understand what the school district may be further doing to meet all of the curriculum needs of our students,” Mr. Komrosky told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “What he calls inaction we see as responsible considerations for all of our community’s viewpoints as we come to a final decision and with time left to do so.”

The board president called Newsom’s announcement fiscally irresponsible.

“We do not appreciate Governor Newsom’s effort to usurp local control and all that will apparently result from these tactics is a waste of the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We sincerely hope he has a 14-day return policy with the publisher of the books he just purchased.”

Mr. Newsom’s announcement comes one day after the school district doubled down on its rejection of a social studies curriculum that the board’s president deemed “inappropriate” due to its inclusion of an adult LGBT activist who reportedly had a sexual relationship with a minor.

The district has spent the year searching for an updated social studies curriculum as its current social studies curriculum, adopted in 2006, does not comply with updated state educational frameworks or California’s 2011 Fair Education Act, which requires schools to include historical LGBT and minority figures in social studies.

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