Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted a Temecula school board president who voted along with a majority of the panel to reject a curriculum because a textbook mentioned gay rights activist and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk.
During a public hearing on the curriculum, Temecula Valley Unified School District board President Joseph Komrosky called Milk a “pedophile.” In a Twitter post, Newsom fired back, calling Komrosky “ignorant.”
The feud has erupted amid a nationwide trend of book bans and attacks against schools for supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
A majority of Temecula Valley Unified’s five-person board rejected on May 16 a new social studies curriculum, which included a textbook that would be assigned to the district’s 18 elementary schools in southern Riverside County.
A supplemental section of the book includes a biography of Milk, a pioneering gay activist who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was gunned down, along with Mayor George Moscone, the following year by a disgruntled former city supervisor.
The Temecula school board’s conservative majority claimed that parents did not have enough involvement in approving the social studies textbook, and two members — including Komrosky — said they opposed the book because of the section on Milk.
“My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” Komrosky asked during a hearing on the subject.
Members of the audience stammered in response and some shook their heads in video from the board meeting.
Board member Allison Barclay said, “He’s not a pedophile.”
“I beg to differ,” Komrosky said. “What does that got to do with our curriculum and schools? Why?”
Milk’s work focused on protecting classes of people from discrimination, including the LGBTQ+ community, Barclay said.
Komrosky asked, “So, you think pedophilia is protected?”
“Excuse me, absolutely not,” Barclay said. “I am not talking about pedophilia.”
Komrosky, who is a tenured college professor at Mt. San Antonio College, did not respond to requests for comment.
In a Twitter post Saturday, Newsom fired back at Komrosky.
“An offensive statement from an ignorant person,” the governor wrote. “This isn’t Texas or Florida. In the Golden State, our kids have the freedom to learn. Congrats Mr. Komrosky you have our attention. Stay tuned.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about how the state would respond, but last week, Newsom’s office, along with Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, and California Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond called on school officials across the state to be careful around the topic of book bans.
“In the first half of this school year alone, 1,477 books were banned nationally, with teachers and librarians threatened with prison time for shelving the wrong book,” the officials wrote in their letter.
“As state leaders elected to represent the values of all Californians, we offer our response in one shared voice: Access to books — including books that reflect the diverse experiences and perspectives of Californians, and especially, those that may challenge us to grapple with uncomfortable truths — is a profound freedom we all must protect and cultivate,” the joint letter said.
The letter did not directly address the vote in Temecula, but warned that if school administrators in California remove or ban instructional materials from classrooms or libraries, the state may request information about the removal for analysis.
Before the Temecula school board rejected the social studies textbook, roughly 1,300 students were involved in a pilot program, using the curriculum material, and 45 parents responded to a survey asking for feedback about the curriculum, according to district staff.
Also, 47 teachers agreed that the district should adopt the textbooks California Studies Weekly for kindergarten students and TCI Social Studies Alive for first- through fifth-grade students.
The board shot down the adoption in a 3-2 vote. Board members Jennifer Wiersma, Danny Gonzalez and Komrosky voted against the curriculum, while board members Steven Schwartz and Barclay voted in favor.
Without the approval of the new curriculum, the district will be short of the books needed for students, which could run afoul of a California law that requires enough instructional materials, such as textbooks, be provided for every student.
Edgar Diaz, president of Temecula Valley Educators Assn., said having no materials means that teachers would need to find their own.
“There’s a tremendous amount of work to go out and do,” Diaz said.
The board did not offer any alternatives aside from rejecting the new textbooks, Diaz said, leaving the district stuck until a new decision is made.
“If they don’t, we’re going to have 11,300 students without textbooks next year,”
The educators organization, an advocacy group, plans to rally outside the next board meeting on June 16.
Wiersma, Gonzalez and Komrosky were voted into office last year, with the endorsement of the Inland Empire Family PAC, which aims to support candidates who oppose critical race theory, LGBTQ+ acceptance and the promotion of transgenderism, according to the political group’s website.
In December, the board banned teaching critical race theory in the school district.
Lawmakers in Sacramento are now considering a bill by State Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside) that would require a super majority vote from a school district’s governing body to remove a book from a school’s curriculum. Assembly Bill 1078 also would create an appeal process for parents to challenge a book ban.
“As a Christian myself, I am deeply appalled that these individuals are perverting our faith to sow division and suppress the histories of others,” Jackson said in a statement. “This will not happen on my watch.”
Times staff writer Saumya Gupta contributed to this report.
Video: Biden Says MAGA Movement Rejects Basic Beliefs of Democracy
new video loaded: Biden Says MAGA Movement Rejects Basic Beliefs of Democracy
Biden Says MAGA Movement Rejects Basic Beliefs of Democracy
President Biden delivered a blistering and direct attack on former President Donald J. Trump during a visit to Arizona.
There’s something dangerous happening in America now. There’s an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy — the MAGA movement. Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans adhere to the MAGA extremist ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with Republicans my whole career. But there’s no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it. My friends, they’re not hiding their attacks. They’re openly promoting them. Attacking the free press as the enemy of the people. Attacking the rule of law as an impediment. Fomenting voter suppression and election subversion. Did you ever think we’d be having debates at your stage of your careers where banning books, banning books and burying history. Extremists in Congress more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people’s business be done.
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Former Michigan marijuana board head gets almost 5 years in federal prison
A man formerly known as a powerful Michigan lawmaker was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in federal prison for accepting bribes as head of a marijuana licensing board.
Rick Johnson admitted accepting at least $110,000 when he led the board from 2017 to 2019.
“I am a corrupt politician,” Johnson told the judge, according to The Detroit News.
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Johnson was a powerful Republican lawmaker years ago, serving as House speaker from 2001 through 2004. He then became a lobbyist, and ultimately chair of a board that reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes.
U.S. District Judge Jane Beckering sentenced Johnson to about 4.5 years in prison.
“You exploited your power, and you planned it out even before you got the appointment,” Beckering said.
Two lobbyists who referred to Johnson as “Batman” in text messages have also pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges. A Detroit-area businessman who paid bribes, John Dalaly, was recently sentenced to more than two years in prison.
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Prosecutors had recommended a nearly six-year prison term for Johnson. In a court filing, they said one of the lobbyists paid for him to have sex with a woman.
“Rick Johnson’s brazen corruption tainted an emerging industry, squandered the public’s trust and scorned a democracy that depends on the rule of law,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said after the hearing.
Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2008. A decade later, voters approved the recreational use of marijuana.
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Higher wages are coming for California’s fast-food workers. Here’s what to know about the new law
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law a sweeping deal his office helped forge between fast-food companies and unions that will give workers in the industry a pay increase next year.
The legislation represent a rare peace agreement, hammered out in negotiations over the summer, that allows businesses and unions to avoid a costly statewide ballot measure fight over wages.
“I can assure you this wasn’t easy,” said Newsom, who signed Assembly Bill 1228 surrounded by ecstatic union workers in Los Angeles. “That was a tectonic plate that had to be moved.”
Beyond the complex politics involved, the deal provides a series of benefits to workers, and some key concessions to employers, that will kick in next year.
Here’s what you need to know about the agreement:
What will the new law do for workers?
The law Newsom signed Thursday has several perks for workers, including:
- A pay increase to $20 per hour on April 1, which applies to California workers employed by any fast-food chain that has more than 60 locations across the country. California’s minimum wage is currently $15.50 for all workers. Statewide, the increase is estimated to affect more than 500,000 workers.
- The possibility of annual wage increases, beginning Jan. 1, 2025, of either 3.5% or an amount based on average changes to the consumer price index each year, whichever is lower. A council of representatives of workers and employers will work with state agencies to determine if future increases should be given and if the bumps would apply to fast-food workers statewide or in specific regions.
- In addition to wages, the council can also work with state agencies to recommend minimum standards for employee hours and other working conditions.
- As part of the larger agreement, the Service Employees International Union California avoids a ballot measure fight that would have cost millions of dollars and can instead redirect union workers to knock on doors and make calls in support of other labor priorities in 2024.
How is this different than the prior fast-food law that was signed last year?
Labor unions successfully pushed Assembly Bill 257, also known as the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, through the state Legislature last year.
The initial fast-food law, which Newsom signed last September, created a statewide 10-member fast-food council and regional councils composed of labor and employer representatives tasked with setting minimum wage, employee hours and working condition standards in California.
Under the law, the council could have increased the minimum wage up to $22 an hour in 2024 for employees of chains with more than 100 restaurants.
Fast-food companies quickly launched a successful campaign to qualify a referendum on the ballot to reverse AB 257, which paused the law from taking effect until a statewide vote in November 2024.
Under the new agreement reached between fast food companies and labor, the referendum will be removed from the ballot and the new law, AB 1228, will override AB 257 from last year.
What did fast-food companies get out of the deal?
Under the final five-year peace agreement that expires in 2029, fast-food companies won some concessions and staved off several potential burdens that unions created as incentives to convince businesses to come to the table and negotiate. Those include:
- Unions agreed to pause efforts to pass a law to make fast-food franchisors legally liable for labor violations committed by franchisees, which could have increased legal costs and fines for corporations.
- Localities will not be able to force fast-food companies to increase wages regionally for workers beyond bumps approved by the state.
- Labor had convinced state lawmakers and the governor to revive the defunct Industrial Welfare Commission under the state budget earlier this year. The commission would have had more authority to raise wages without limits and to enact workplace conditions for fast-food and other California industries. The commission served as an insurance policy for unions if the fast-food industry’s referendum on AB 257 succeeded and the original fast-food council was nullified. Lawmakers agreed to defund the IWC as part of the deal.
- Fast-food companies also save millions of dollars by calling off the referendum battle over AB 257.
Who will sit on the new council?
The new Fast Food Council, which is similar to the original council created under AB 257, will consist of nine voting members:
- Two representatives of the fast-food restaurant industry
- Two franchisees or restaurant owners
- Two restaurant employees
- Two advocates for fast-food restaurant employees.
- One member of the public who is not affiliated with either side and will serve as chair.
The council will also have two non-voting members from the Department of Industrial Relations and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
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