Governor Newsom threatens to fine Temecula after school board votes not to distribute DEI textbooks

The culture wars debate over diversity, equity and inclusion education has come to Southern California school districts

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This week the Carlsbad Unified School District and the Temecula Valley Unified School Districts School Boards took up the issue of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) curriculum in their school systems. Schools across California are now required to have a DEI curriculum and the state has suggested some textbooks that meet the requirements or schools are allowed to come up with their own curriculum to meet the mandate.

Carlsbad Unified School District's School Board voted 4 to 1 to adopt their DEI curriculum, which was outlined in a 27-page document distributed to parents across the school district. The School Board had a marathon meeting on Wednesday night and listened to parents and educators on both sides of the issue before voting. 

The Temecula Valley Unified School District had a 9-hour meeting on Tuesday evening that ended in a 3 to 2 vote, resulting in the school board voting not to distribute textbooks that would have met the state's requirements. Some parents expressed concerns over the textbook reference to Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist. 

The fiery debate, at times, appeared to be more like a sports match, than a school board event, with the Board President issuing "yellow cards" and "pink cards" warning audience members about disruptive behavior, and then on a subsequent offense - dismissing them from the meeting. At one point, a public commenter was escorted out by sheriff's deputies after calling one of the school board members a "homophobe". 

Governor Gavin Newsom has said that he has secured a contract that will deliver those textbooks to Temecula classrooms before their first day of school on Aug. 14. He says he will also send the school district the bill for those books and a $1.5 million fine for not following the state's requirements to have, "inclusive and diverse perspectives" in their curriculum.

The Governor says he is pursuing legislation with the State of California's Superintendent of Public Instruction to sue school districts that are out of compliance with the state rules. That idea has been met with heavy criticism from educators who believe that school boards should retain some local control over what is taught in their classrooms. 

NBC 7 reached out to Dr. Joseph Komrosky, President of the Board of Education in Temecula, read his full statement below:

I speak personally here and not on behalf of the entire TVUSD Board when I say, the Temecula Valley Unified School District is not done with its work on curriculum for the 2023-2024 school year.  We continue to engage our parents and work diligently towards finding the right solution for our community, and every day we make progress towards that goal.  We still have the time to continue this critical process and meet all state and federal mandates before the next school year begins.  Throughout this process, we have put a high value on Board priorities such as curriculum & instruction as well as family & community.  One such policy priority of the Board is that "Our families and community members will feel connected, informed, and welcome to participate as true partners in the education of our students." We take that policy seriously and intend for those words to have actual meaning.  Additionally, parental feedback is critical in collaborating with our educators, and executive staff to find agreement on what standards will best achieve educational excellence. A critical component of that exercise is to determine the subject matter's age appropriateness for any curriculum and the specific grade level at hand. While engaged in this process, I am confident that while reviewing any curriculum for use in this District, TVUSD will select the best material that emphasizes our mission of, "High-Quality Teaching and Learning for All", but that also avoids any teacher-to-student conversations related to sex and sexual activity at the elementary school level.  These conversations are better left to the parents and their children.

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.  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.  To that end, I will be calling a Special Meeting of the Board for July 21, 2023, to consider a culmination of our work on this issue and the potential adoption of curriculum that meets all state and federal mandates.  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.  We sincerely hope he has a 14-day return policy with the publisher of the books he just purchased.

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