Book Ban Battle Just Got Real As California Governor Fights Back

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into effect on Sept. 25, 2023, that fines schools that ban books that discuss race or gender identity.

Assembly Bill 1078 will also make districts pay for replacement textbooks when they don’t purchase books that agree with the state’s anti-discrimination laws, a provision that Newsom fought to have added to the bill. As Politico reported, Newsom is taking a stand against the book bans led by conservative factions like Moms for Liberty and others across the country. 

In a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, Newsom stood alongside state school Superintendent Tony Thurmond, saying, “Remarkable that we’re living in a country right now in this banning binge, this cultural purge that we’re experiencing all throughout America and now increasingly here in the state of California, where we have school districts banning books, banning free speech, criminalizing librarians and teachers. We want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that’s what this legislation provides.”

Newsom’s law also establishes that any review of a district failing to follow the anti-discrimination law must go through Thurmond. This means the districts are no longer subject to the county board of education system.

Notably, Newsom’s bill follows Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s June 2023 bill, HB 2789, which fines public libraries that go along with “partisan” or “doctrinal” bans. 

A public library violating Pritzker’s bill would find itself ineligible for state funding starting Jan. 1, 2024. According to Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, the bill aims to give librarians, not special interest groups, the final say.

“We are not saying that every book should be in every single library,” said Giannoulias. “What this law does is it says, let’s trust our experience and education of our librarians to decide what books should be in circulation.”

To be eligible to receive funds, Illinois public libraries must adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights or a similar pledge, adhering to the belief that “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.”

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