NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s a bill that would increase state government oversight on what books are placed in school libraries. If signed into law, HB 2666 would require local school districts to submit a list of books and instructional materials to the state textbook commissioner for final approval.
Librarians and education supporters protested the bill outside of the state capitol in downtown Nashville Wednesday. “I’m here out of concern about the last-minute amendment that Speaker Sexton added that would take away decision-making authority from our school librarians,” said Anna Caudill, a Special Education Advocate.
Supporters of the bill say its about increasing transparency.
“There’s no clear direction right now on how these books are getting in there, so this lets the librarians make a list of the books that they have in their library along with the LEAs and the LEA presents it to the commission—the textbook commission takes a look at it and they approve it,” Rep. Jerry Sexton said in committee.
Those rallying against the passage of the bill say it’s a power grab. “This bill would take that control out of parent hands and take that relationship from between the parent and the librarian to a distant state textbook committee making the decisions for us,” Caudill said.
She added that parents already have access to their child’s library.
“Here’s the thing, parents are the best decision-makers for their students learning and parents have the ability, as it stands now, to go online through their school’s book portal or schools library portal and to look at what their students are reading,” Caudill said.
If a book is rejected by the textbook commission, sponsors of the bill say there is an appeals process for parents and school districts, but protestors question the commission’s motives.
“I appreciate the efforts of the textbook commission and the 10 members who are currently serving, they are political appointees and they don’t have the same depth of education and experience that professional librarians have — school librarians who have trained in how to review books, how to balance a school library collection and how to respond with sensitivity to the emerging needs of different students.”
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The bill would also add three new members to the textbook commission Two selected by both speakers and one non-voting member.
The bill cleared the House with a vote of 66-26.