California Governor Jerry Brown will decide whether the state with the biggest public school enrollment should be the first in the U.S. to require teaching the history and accomplishments of gays and lesbians.
The Assembly passed 49-25 a bill approved earlier by the Senate that would direct social-science classes and texts to include the “role and contributions” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Brown, a 73-year-old Democrat, has 12 days to sign or veto the measure. His decision will affect not only the state’s 6.2 million students in public school. California is the largest textbook buyer in the U.S., representing almost 13 percent of the $3.4 billion market in 2009, according to the Association of American Publishers. School publishers typically try to sell California-approved texts to other states.
“We need to portray all people, regardless of their race, their color or their sexual orientation, in a positive way in our textbooks,” Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, an Alamo Democrat and former teacher, said in floor debate on the bill.
Brown hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the measure. The governor was elected last year with support from Equality California, the state’s largest gay-rights group. The organization has met twice with Brown to urge the governor to support the measure, Executive Director Roland Palencia said in an e-mail yesterday.
“The bill has not yet been received,” said Gil Duran, a spokesman for Brown, in an e-mail message. “We generally do not comment on bills prior to action by the governor.”
Opponents and proponents of the gay-history bill say they plan to lobby Brown.
“We’re hoping the people of California will be able to influence the new governor,” Ron Prentice, executive director of the California Family Council, which promotes Judeo-Christian principles, according to its website.
“We want the governor to really look at whether this is in the best interest of schoolchildren or whether this would contribute to more confusion and problems as the children develop a sexual identity,” Prentice said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Supporters including Palencia characterized the bill as a way to broaden the teaching of history for all students.
“The struggle of the multicultural and multiethnic LGBT community in California is one of the greatest stories yet to be told,” Palencia said in a statement, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The measure “will ensure that public schools acknowledge the heroism of individuals and communities who in spite of countless barriers continuously overcome adversity,” he said.
Since taking office in January, Brown has focused on closing a budget gap that was $26.6 billion in March. Democratic lawmakers approved an $85.9 billion budget June 29 that eliminates the deficit through spending cuts and forecasting more revenue than originally projected. Within an hour of the budget vote, Brown vetoed a measure that would have made it easier for farmworkers to unionize, angering organized labor, which supported his 2010 campaign.
Opponents of the history bill will frame their case to Brown partly in financial terms, said the Family Council’s Prentice. He said the measure will cost money by requiring schools to buy updated textbooks.
State Senator Mark Leno, the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a May interview that the measure wouldn’t require the state to buy new textbooks, only that the additional elements be added to future editions.
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