Friday, May 27, 2005

Shorter Is Not Necessarily Better: California Bill Limiting Textbooks To 200 Pages Passes Assembly

Would you believe that those legislative geniuses in the California Assembly up in Sacramento have passed a law that would ban California school districts from buying textbooks that are more than 200 pages long?

The bill, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, was hailed by supporters as a way to revolutionize education.

Critics lambasted Assembly Bill 756 as silly.

The text of AB 756 says it could reduce the cost and weight of textbooks.

"This bill is really the epitome of micromanagement," said Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge. "(It's) absolutely ridiculous."

"With all due respect," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, "this Legislature worries more about the rules than they do about whether children learn."

But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.

No position on AB 756 has been taken by Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, or by education groups ranging from the California Teachers Association to the California School Boards Association.

The Association of American Publishers opposes the bill, saying the arbitrary 200-page limit could force publishers to produce multiple volumes to cover the state's content standards.

Textbooks would have to be restructured, the group contends.

"To do this will increase the costs of instructional materials without adding any instructional value," lobbyist Dale Shimasaki, representing publishers, said in a letter of opposition.

Goldberg said she's willing to negotiate over specifics, but that publishers have been uncooperative.

Her bill would apply to future purchases, not existing textbooks.

The bill was pushed through the Democratic-controlled lower house by a vote of 42-28 with most Republicans opposing the measure. The Bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration. Governor Schwarzenegger hasn't indicated whether or not he supports the proposed law.

As a teacher who actually teaches students in a California classroom, I hope that he takes that veto pen out of his desk drawer.

The fact that many in the Assembly don't believe that California's students are capable of getting productive use out of a 200+ page textbook is a source of concern for us. We resent the fact that our State's legislators continue to underestimate the abilities of our kids.

Get the full newspaper story (user id: root -password: password) with
much more right here. See a government analysis of the bill there.

Tipped by: Kathy over at Blog From the Bog

Related Commentary: Joanne Jacobs

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