Colorado bill to curb book bans in school and public libraries voted down in education committee

Colorado lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee voted against a bill that would have made it harder to remove content from a school or public library.

Senate Bill 49 had undergone numerous changes after concerns from Colorado school districts that the bill was too prescriptive and would trample on their ability to make policy decisions that are unique to their community.

State Sen. Lisa Cutter, a Jefferson County Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, held off on asking for a vote on the bill on Monday to introduce amendments after a three-hour committee hearing.

But on Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee voted against the bill with a 5-2 vote, after voting 4-3 against the amendment to the proposal.

Cutter said after the hearing she thought changes she made were enough to get the bill approved.

“We’ve made a lot of accommodations and, honestly, I am not 100% sure why it didn’t pass,” she said.

The most significant pushback came from the Colorado Association of School Boards, which represents over 1,000 school board members across the state. But Cutter said the amendments were enough for the association to drop its opposition.

During testimony, Hilary Daniels, the association’s staff attorney, said the original bill interfered with Colorado’s local control provision, which allows boards to tailor educational policy to meet the needs of their community.

The law also would have been redundant, she said.

“Local boards of education are fully aware of First Amendment constitutional law, which prohibits them from removing school library books for partisan or discriminatory reasons,” she said. “These legal parameters are already included in CASB (Colorado Association of School Boards) sample policy regarding public complaints about instructional materials, which districts use to inform their own policies.”

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