Out of Control Policy Blog

California Assembly to become School Textbook Publisher

Since the legislature has already outlawed homemade cookies and cupcakes for school birthday parties, now the state assembly has voted to limit all school textbooks to 200 pages.

From a San Jose Mercury News editorial:

Maybe Democrats in the state Assembly should just go ahead and write textbooks for California's students. They're so confident they know what constitutes a good one.

For instance, who knew that making a textbook longer than 200 pages was such a bad idea that there needs to be a law against it?

Well, 42 Assembly Democrats knew. On Thursday they approved AB 756, a bill by Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, that says: Neither the State Board of Education nor a local school district ``may adopt instructional materials that exceed 200 pages in length.''

Textbooks, the bill's supporters argued, should sum up the basics and then refer students to the Internet and to libraries for the rest. Plus, shorter is lighter and cheaper.

Maybe. Their assumption doesn't seem that obvious to us. It seems like something that ought to be decided -- just brainstorming here -- by actually reading each proposed textbook, as opposed to laying down an arbitrary limit.

The bill doesn't jibe with other instructions (some from the Legislature) that textbook publishers have been getting to avoid textbooks that are just dry columns of words. They must be full of pictures and charts. And in each subject, they have to cover the state's comprehensive curriculum requirements. This makes them longer.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

A few weeks ago, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Don Perata of Oakland, held a news conference to say that his colleagues were committed to more funding for education and less interference in day-to-day decisions.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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