Newsom to buy banned textbooks mentioning Harvey Milk for Temecula school district students

California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will buy textbooks for Temecula Valley Unified School District students: “We’ll send the district the bill and fine them for violating state law.”
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

In the latest salvo in a battle between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the president of the Temecula Valley Unified School District over a banned book, Newsom announced Thursday that the state would purchase the book for district students if the board did not ensure that students had sufficient material before the start of the school year on Aug. 14.

The feud between the district and Newsom began last month when the school board voted to reject a curriculum that included a social studies book because its materials referenced LGBTQ+ activist Harvey Milk.

“Cancel culture has gone too far in Temecula: radicalized zealots on the school board rejected a textbook used by hundreds of thousands of students and now children will begin the school year without the tools they need to learn,” Newsom said Thursday in a release.


The state will “deliver the book into the hand of children and their parents” if “the school board won’t do its job by its next board meeting to ensure kids start the school year with basic materials,” Newsom said.

“We’ll send the district the bill and fine them for violating state law,” he said.

State law requires that school districts have enough materials for every student, and the FAIR Act requires that school districts adopt social studies curricula that provide information on the roles that diverse Americans, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, have had in history and contemporary society.

The board must purchase one of the four standard programs approved by the state, a governor’s spokesperson said.

“Temecula Valley Unified School District’s current curriculum is outdated and in violation of state law,” the governor’s office said in a release. “Students in the district are forced to use a textbook published in 2006.”

The cost of the curriculum is about $1.6 million, and the fine would be about $1.5 million under Assembly Bill 1078, which is making its way through the state Legislature.

In a statement emailed to The Times, school board President Joseph Komrosky said that Newsom had “mischaracterized not only what has occurred, but why.”


Komrosky said the curriculum was rejected not only for its reference to Milk but also over concerns regarding the district’s process, including whether it had “adequately engaged the community regarding the adoption of curriculum” and whether the curriculum was appropriate for English learners and special education students.

A school survey regarding the curriculum received few responses.

After an “intense effort,” Komrosky said “district stakeholders” had assembled a curriculum to be presented at the board meeting set for Tuesday.

“What is also unfortunate is that the Governor knows this and has elected to publish this threatened action ahead of the District’s hard work on this matter that will come to fruition in just a few days,” Komrosky said.

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July 13, 2023

The move comes after the Temecula Valley school board voted in May to ban the book after objections raised by Komrosky, who baselessly called Milk a “pedophile.”

Milk — a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first out gay man to be elected to public office in California — was mentioned only in supplemental material included with the book.

Newsom fired back at Komrosky on Twitter, slamming him as “ignorant” for his “offensive comments.”


“This isn’t Texas or Florida,” Newsom wrote on Twitter. “In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn. Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned.”

A few days later, Komrosky and school board member Danny Gonzalez held a news conference in which they responded at Newsom.

“Gov. Newsom, I’m glad that I have your attention. Now you have mine,” Komrosky said to applause from supporters attending the conference.

Komrosky did not back away from his comments regarding Milk and said he had “received my first death threat” after the governor’s tweet.

Gonzalez waved away concerns that students would not have textbooks for the start of the school year.

“Our students and teachers will have what they need for the start of the year,” he said, “and I continue to work through this daily.”


Komrosky said Thursday that the district had made arrangements with the publisher of its current curriculum “to provide enough textbooks for every single K-5 student of the District.”

Should a new curriculum not be adopted, the district would move forward with the texts already in use, Komrosky said.

Hannah de la Cruz, who has a second-grader in the Temecula Valley school district, said, “I find the banning of this curriculum to be politically motivated and not serving the best interests of the students or the teachers.”

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July 13, 2023

The rejection of the curriculum is not the only move the board has made in recent weeks that has made some uneasy.

In June, the mostly conservative school board fired Supt. Jodi McClay without cause. McClay had previously clashed with the board’s conservative members over the banning of critical race theory and the curriculum that included mentions of Milk.

McClay had voted for the curriculum and opposed banning CRT.

A recall effort targeting Komrosky, Gonzalez and board member Jennifer Wiersma, funded by the One Temecula Valley PAC, is underway.


“They made a mountain out of a molehill to engage in politically partisan culture wars,” said Jeff Pack, co-founder of the political action committee. “Our sense is, these are nonpartisan seats. If you’re bringing your politics or your religion or your personal views on things into the seat, then you’re not doing the kids and the school district justice. And you’re not doing right by the voters.”

In June, the governor and state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta sent a letter to the school board demanding information about its “process and decision-making” regarding its decision to ban the textbook.

“Concerning statements made by Board members during the May 16 meeting, including allegations about LGBTQ+ community leader Harvey Milk, the Attorney General’s letter expresses deep concern about the potential discriminatory intent,” the governor’s office said.

And since the school board’s decision on the textbook, Newsom and State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond have thrown their weight behind Assembly Bill 1078, which would, among other things, require a two-thirds supermajority for a board to remove materials from a curriculum.

“Censoring learning materials based on bigotry and ignorance prevents our students from getting a good education,” Thurmond said in the governor’s release.