Pennsylvania Lawmakers Wage Yet Another Battle Over Book Banning

State Rep. Chris Rabb speaks at Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, on January 29, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Brett Pransky

October 25, 2022

Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb wants to create a system in which a number of steps would have to take place in order to ban a text from a school system or a school library.

State Rep. Christopher Rabb (D-Philadelphia) is planning to introduce legislation to combat the recent and ridiculous rash of book bans in Pennsylvania schools.

At present, only one state—Texas—has banned more books than Pennsylvania, and the push to ban more and more is continuing in many school districts.

Rabb’s plan, while not released yet, promises to create a system in which a number of steps would have to take place in order to ban a text from a school system or a school library.

The process would require at least two public hearings in which professionals with knowledge of the texts would get a chance to speak about the text before a vote to remove it could be held.

At present, what would count as knowledge of the text and what kind of professionals will be called upon to testify are unknown, but what is perhaps more certain is that a bill of this kind is unlikely to stop the ideological book bans. However, it may delay the bans for a while, and may also call attention to the problem by allowing experts to speak about these bans in public.

This new push for some semblance of balance comes at a time when public schools are under a variety of attacks from a number of corporate entities and curiously well funded parents’ groups, many of them funded by billionaires seeking to privatize schools and direct public dollars into private pockets.

In Pennsylvania, many of these efforts are funded in one way or another by Pennsylvania’s richest man, billionaire Jeffrey Yass, a well known advocate for what corporate entities improperly refer to as “school choice.”

The attacks are also coming from the top of the Republican ticket in Pennsylvania, as GOP candidate for Governor Doug Mastriano has promised to cut funding for public schools in half should he win in November.

While public hearings are unlikely to stop hyper partisan school boards from banning texts, they will likely shine a light on the nature of those bans, why they are being sought, and who is really behind them.

Rabb’s plan might not be a solution, but it is perhaps part of one, and that is certainly better than nothing.


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