June 21, 2023
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Secures Commitment from Textbook Publishers to Diversify Instructional Materials and Work with Task Force
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond convened a hearing of his special Task Force on Inclusive Education at the State Capitol on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, to elevate the conversation about the content offered to California students by publishers of textbooks and instructional materials. Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) co-chairs the task force with Thurmond, and they were joined by six other legislators, serving as task force members, today.
“It is proven that when students see images that look like them, they do better academically and socially,” said State Superintendent Thurmond. “We have a wonderfully diverse student body in California, and many of our textbooks haven’t kept up. This is a chance to diversify those narratives. This is all happening against a backdrop where governors in other states are literally trying to strip out any representation about race, about the experience of LGBTQ+ students and of students with disabilities. California is going in the other direction. We are, today, asking textbook publishers to make a firm commitment to diversify their books and to share what it is that they are doing.”
“As someone who has been an educator prior to getting to the California Legislature, I know what it's like for students to see, to read, to interpret, and to have a dialogue about the material they read. I know how important it is for them to see themselves reflected in the literature they read,” said Senator Limón. “The conversation today is not simply a reaction to what is going on in our country. It is a commitment on behalf of the state of California to say that what we have done for the last few years is what we will continue to do to provide diverse and inclusive perspectives of our rich history.”
At the core of the session, Thurmond called on publishing firms to pledge to diversify their textbooks and resources and to work with the task force on ways to include more firms in these important efforts. Representatives from Benchmark Education, CPM Educational Programs, The College Board, and Studies Weekly stood before the task force and provided examples of what their companies are doing to provide broader narratives and depictions that are inclusive of stories and histories of often-underrepresented groups.
“We have made hard decisions at The College Board to do what is right for content, curriculum, and for students for their futures,” said Gregory Walker, Senior Vice President of The College Board. “And if that means a reduction in market share or revenue, we are okay with that decision because that is the right decision for students.”
The task force also heard from expert witnesses. Dr. Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and a Thurmond-appointed State of California Education Ambassador, shared with the task force: “I’ve been waiting for 70 years for something like this to happen. Because when I was growing up, I never saw myself in textbooks, and now that we have such a diverse population, especially in California, it’s important for all students to recognize and see themselves as part of the history of California.”
Dr. Joe Johnson, Founding Executive Director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University, shared: “It hurts to think that, in our nation, that people who call themselves educators don’t recognize we have an opportunity through education to create a beloved society where every single person is valued and appreciated and respected. We as educators have a sacred responsibility to build that beloved society through what we teach each and every single child. … It is so important that in the state of California that we’re having this conversation so we can make sure our children benefit from resources that magnify their opportunity to succeed in life.”
Thurmond’s Task Force on Inclusive Education will not end with today’s hearing. Several members have authored bills to help promote work in this area.
“We’re here today to address the challenges faced by students who don’t see themselves represented in the lessons taught in our schools and the stories told in our textbooks,” said Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Santa Monica), author of Assembly Bill (AB) 5, The Safe and Supportive Schools Program, which is sponsored by Thurmond. “This includes students of color, of the immigrant community, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and more and, generally, these students see lower success rates. LGBTQ+ students who are targeted because of their sexual orientation miss school nearly three times more often, had lower GPAs, were less likely to pursue a post-secondary education, had lower self-esteem, and had higher suicide rates. Schools play a crucial role in supporting these students if they lack acceptance at home or in their communities.”
Thurmond is supporting two additional bills related to promoting inclusive education and is working with the authors to maximize their impact. AB 1078 (Jackson) would look for ways to prevent book banning, and AB 1352 (Bonta) would promote inclusive policies, practices, and curriculum.
“There is room for everyone to be part of this conversation,” said Thurmond. “We will be working with parent groups and student groups and continuing to advance this conversation so that public education remains a safe, inclusive, and positive space for all California students.”
To watch today’s full hearing of the Task Force on Inclusive Education, visit the California Senate Democrats YouTube channel .
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100