California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) and fellow democrat state Assemblyman Corey Jackson pose for a photo during the signing of a bill to prohibit book bans in the state. Photo courtesy Office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom
Sept. 26 (UPI) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that prohibits school boards from banning curriculum, educational materials and books amid an increase in texts concerning race and LGBTQ issues being pulled from schools nationwide.
Newsom, a Democrat, signed Assembly Bill 1078 on Monday after the California state Assembly passed it 62-16 in late May and the state Senate 30-9 earlier this month.
Under the bill, which went immediately into effect, schools that ban textbooks or instructional material required by state law to "accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society" will be subjected to a fine.
If the school district fails to provide the textbooks, the state will also charge them for replacements.
Newsom, in a recorded statement with Corey Jackson, a state assemblyman and the bill's author, described the piece of legislation as "long overdue."
"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," he said.
"We want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that's what this legislation provides."
The bill was proposed amid an increase in book bans across the country.
According to a Sept. 21 report by PEN America, a U.S. nonprofit that defends free speech, the number of public school book bans increased 33% during the 2022-23 school year compared to the previous school calendar.
In total, PEN recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, with more than 40% of all books banned in Florida school districts, followed by Texas, Missouri, Utah and Pennsylvania.
"Overwhelmingly, book bans target books on race or racism or featuring characters of color, as well as books with LGBTQ+ characters," it said.
"And this year, banned books also include books on physical abuse, health and well-being, and themes of grief and death. Notably, most instances of book bans affect young adult books, middle grade books, chapter books or picture books -- books specifically written and selected for younger audiences."
Newsom signed the bill after Illinois became the first U.S. state to prohibit the banning of books in June though that law won't take effect until Jan. 1.
It also follows Newsom's fight this summer with the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which failed to adopt a social studies textbook require to include "fair accurate, inclusive and respectful reference" to contributions by members of the LGBTQ community over its inclusion of gay rights advocate Harvey Milk.
Milk was the first openly gay man elected to office in California and was assassinated in 1978.
In July, Newsom slapped a $1.5 million fine on the Southern California school district for its failure to adopt the state-endorsed social studies curriculum.
"From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools," Newsom said in a statement.
"With this new law, we're cementing California's role as the true freedom state: a place where families -- not political fanatics -- have the freedom to decide what's right for them."