California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has signed a bill that grants him the authority to impose fines on local school districts that refuse to comply with state directives on controversial subjects such as race, gender, and sexuality. This move has raised concerns among conservatives who see it as an attempt to enforce a left-wing agenda in schools and restrict local control over curriculum decisions.
In July, Newsom pushed for the power to penalize dissenting school districts, particularly those in conservative communities, on LGBTQ+ issues and ethnic studies. Initially, the bill (AB 1078) was struggling to gain traction in the California state legislature, where Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses. However, Newsom’s support for the legislation gave it a new lease on life.
The governor’s primary target for this law was the school district in Temecula, California, where a newly elected conservative majority on the school board rejected LGBTQ+ materials, including those related to Harvey Milk. Newsom framed the law as one that prevents “book bans and censorship,” but critics argue that it effectively enforces left-wing censorship in schools by mandating a one-sided curriculum.
Newsom’s assertion that the law provides families with the “freedom” to decide what is right for them has been met with skepticism, as it actually curtails the freedom of families to decide, through their school districts, what their children should learn. Critics argue that state-mandated curricula often exclude conservative or traditional perspectives on these controversial issues.
In addition to this law, Newsom’s administration is suing a local school board in Chino Valley, California, over a policy that requires schools to notify parents if their children want to change their gender—a policy supported by a significant majority of Californians.
Governor Newsom has positioned himself as a national leader against Republican-led states like Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has banned the use of Critical Race Theory in schools and restricted sexual materials for early-grade students. The upcoming debate between Newsom and DeSantis, hosted by Sean Hannity on Fox News in Georgia, is expected to delve into these contentious education issues, even though Newsom maintains that he is not running for president.