A group of Democratic members of Congress this week introduced new federal legislation aimed at combating the surge of book banning in schools. Introduced on December 5 by Florida’s Maxwell Alejandro Frost and Frederica Wilson, and Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Fight Book Bans Act would offer school districts funding to defend against the ongoing surge in challenges to books and educational materials that has led to thousands of titles being pulled from school library bookshelves.

“Book bans in Florida and in states across the nation are a direct attack on our freedoms and liberties everywhere. As my home state shamefully leads the country in book bans, we cannot let this censorship and dismantling of our education system go unchecked,” said Frost, at a press conference unveiling the new bill. “The Fight Book Bans Act takes a stand against censorship to firmly stand on the side of history, education, our students, teachers, and schools, who don’t deserve to suffer the consequences of radical politics in the classroom. This is about protecting our libraries and protecting truth and history.”

Specifically, the bill—which Frost’s office said already has the support of 50 members of Congress—would enable the Department of Education to provide grants to school districts to cover expenses incurred while fighting book bans, “including the cost of retaining legal representation, the cost of traveling to hearings on the bans, and the logistics for those hearings,” a release states, “as well as the cost of obtaining expert research and advice.” Under the bill, the DOE would be able to provide up to $100,000 to a given school district, with total appropriations capped at $15 million over five years.

“Banning books in schools is not only unpopular, it’s expensive,” said Laura Schroeder, congressional affairs lead at PEN America, in a statement of support. As school districts around the country divert resources to address widespread efforts to curtail students’ freedom to read, it is once again students who ultimately suffer the most.”

The bill comes as the latest data shows book bans continuing to surge in 2023. In a September release, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reported that the number of unique titles challenged in the first 8 months of the year jumped 20% over 2022, with most of the challenges relating to books "written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community."

In addition, a September report from PEN America found 3,362 instances of books banned in public schools in the 2022-23 school year, a 33% increase over last year. "Amid a growing climate of censorship, school book bans continue to spread through coordinated campaigns by a vocal minority of groups and individual actors and, increasingly, as a result of pressure from state legislation," the report, Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor, found.

Since the publication of its "Banned in the USA" report tracking school book bans in April 2022, PEN America has documented nearly 6,000 book bans in total over the last two years.

The bill is the second bill aimed at protecting school libraries this year. In April, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03) reintroduced the Right to Read Act, which would, among its provisions, ensure all U.S. students have access to a school library staffed by a certified school librarian and extend "liability protections" to teachers and school librarians amid a spate of state laws threatening librarians and teachers with fines, jail time, or job loss for providing access to books deemed inappropriate. The bill has not advanced.