California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office filed a public records request last week with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and the Florida Department of Education over communications leading to potential textbook revisions publishers made to gain approval for use in Florida schools.
Additionally, Newsom, a Democrat, is asking publishers to disclose if they submitted social studies textbooks for approval in Florida and if they agreed to any changes by officials in the Republican-led state.
The Florida Department of Education announced earlier this month that only 19 of 101 of social studies instructional materials were approved in April “due to inaccurate material, errors and other information that was not aligned with Florida Law.” Since then, 66 of the 101 submitted materials have been approved by the state after working directly with publishers, who have “updated their materials” to comply with the state’s standards.
“To uphold our exceptional standards, we must ensure our students and teachers have the highest quality materials available – materials that focus on historical facts and are free from inaccuracies or ideological rhetoric,” said Florida’s Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. in a statement.
During these reviews, several books that Florida added to its “not recommended list” include two books on Holocaust education and another textbook on African American history, among other wide-ranging topics.
“California will not be complicit in Florida’s attempt to whitewash history through laws and backroom deals,” Newsom wrote to publishers. “Parents have a right to know what’s happening in the dark to undermine our children’s education — and California deserves to know whether any of the companies designing textbooks for our state’s classroom are the same ones kowtowing to Florida’s extremist agenda.”
Newsom’s efforts come as momentum grows, particularly among Democrats and advocates, to push back on Florida and other states’ efforts to ban books in local schools and libraries. The pressure building against book bans is happening as more instances of books are being pulled off shelves in 2023 compared to last year.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education found Georgia’s Forsyth County Schools’ process for banning books discriminated against students based on sex and race, violating both Title IX and Title VI. Meanwhile, publishing giant Penguin Random House joined a lawsuit challenging book bans instituted by Florida’s Escambia County School District and its school board.
Earlier this month, the Democrat-led Illinois General Assembly also poised itself to become the first state to prohibit libraries from banning books when it passed HB 2789 with Gov. J.B. Pritzker still expected to sign it into law.