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National News

Ed culture wars hurt textbook industry

New York Teacher

Textbook sales have plummeted as school districts in red states are concerned that content they purchase could violate state laws restricting education on race, history, sex and gender or prompt complaints in an era of surging book challenges.

“Sales are way down for everybody. This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Ben Conn, who heads the Educational Book and Media Association.

The education culture wars have hit the K–12 publishing industry hard. In Texas, publishers and sellers are screening every book they’ve sold to public school districts in order to recall any “sexually explicit” titles — defined as material that “describes, depicts, or portrays sexual conduct … in a way that is patently offensive” — under a law signed on June 13. In Tennessee, book publishers, distributors and sellers who provide “obscene” material to schools could face six years in jail and a roughly $100,000 fine, according to a law that took effect on July 1.

The Florida Education Department rejected more than 30 social studies textbooks this spring and sought edits to an additional 47, partly in compliance with a year-old state law that prohibits making students feel “guilt, anguish, or ... psychological distress” because of their race during lessons about the nation’s past.

Publishing firms are spending months in negotiations with state education departments, politicians and school officials to ensure that textbooks they sell will not leave them vulnerable to being fined, imprisoned or banned from doing business with a state.

Some publishers and vendors have stopped selling in certain states because of the restrictions.

The Washington Post, July 19