SACRAMENTO — A new "professional code of conduct" aimed at preventing abuses in the textbook selection and purchasing process was adopted Friday by the State Board of Education.
The new ethical guidelines come in the wake of disclosures that some publishers have bought expensive meals and have paid for weekend "seminars" at fancy resorts for local educators who select textbooks.
"Do we have widespread abuses? No. Are there some cases of abuse? Yes," State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig said during discussion of the proposed code. "I think this will help."
The code reminds school districts that it is a violation of state law for those who evaluate and purchase textbooks to accept money, meals, gifts or other "inducements" that might influence their decisions. The law also prohibits publishers from making such offers to educators.
The code also asks each of California's 1,013 school districts to adopt conflict-of-interest disclosure statements so that teachers and school officials who write textbooks or consult for publishing companies do not also participate in local selection decisions.
Some districts now require such disclosure but others do not.
Dan Chernow, chairman of the state Curriculum Commission, said the new guidelines "will raise the consciousness" of both publishers and school officials about ethical issues that are involved in the selection and purchase of instructional materials.
Chernow said some recent disclosures of the "wining and dining" of textbook evaluators were a "smoke screen" for publishers "who haven't been providing quality materials."
But he also said that "it's become evident that some publishers' representatives and some (school) district representatives have been violating the law."
Board member Marion McDowell questioned the need for the conduct code.
"The board already has a code of conduct for professional people . . . and we already have the state law," McDowell said. "I don't quite understand why we have to have another code."
But McDowell joined in a unanimous board vote to approve the guidelines.
In another action, the board approved a "model school accountability report card" that will provide the parents and students at every California public school with important information on such subjects as test scores, dropout rates, class size and expenditures per pupil.
Every school in the state must adopt either this model or some other version of a school "report card" for the next school year.