Will the third time be the charm of making ethnic studies a requirement for high school graduation in California?
On Wednesday, September 8, the California legislature sent Assembly Bill 101 to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office. If he enacted it, high school students in the state, starting with the class of 2030, would be required to take an ethnic studies course to graduate. Ethnic studies classes are expected to be offered in secondary schools from the 2025-2026 school year.
The bill is the brainchild of Assembly Member Jose Medina, D-Riverside, a former teacher of ethnic studies at Poly High School in Riverside and a former member of the Jurupa School Board.
This is not Medina’s first tour with the problem.
He first introduced a bill to make ethnic studies a requirement for high school graduation in 2018, two years after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2016 bill requiring that the State creates ethnic studies program. Brown vetoed a draft Ethnic Studies graduation bill in 2018, and Newsom vetoed a second in 2020.
“The third time is the charm,” said Medina on Friday, September 10. “I think the governor will sign it.”
Getting the right ethnic studies program has proven difficult. Earlier versions were accused of being anti-Semitic and excluding various minority communities. After four years, the state board of education approved a model ethnic studies curriculum in March. The program examines the stories and contributions of Asians, Blacks, Latin Americans, and Native Americans, as well as lessons about American Arabs, American Jews, Pacific Islanders, and American Sikhs.
But criticism that earlier versions of the program were anti-Semitic have not completely disappeared. On Thursday, September 9, the Amcha Initiative, which opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on college campuses, called on Newsom to veto AB 101.
“Despite the efforts of the Jewish Legislative Caucus and some Jewish organizations, the reality is that there is no way these amendments could prevent anti-Semitic programs like the First Draft or even the more overtly anti-Semitic Liberated program from finding their way. in California. classrooms, ”reads part of an Amcha press release. “The only way to ensure that these anti-Semitic programs do not end up in classrooms on a large scale is for the governor to veto this bill, which we urge him to do.”
Medina noted on Friday that the Assembly’s Jewish Caucus supported the bill, as did many other Jewish groups.
But there are additional challenges in getting the bill signed, even since last fall, when Newsom vetoed the second version of an Ethnic Studies Graduation Requirements Bill.
For starters, the governor now faces a possible recall on Tuesday, September 14. He may want to avoid signing bills that could prompt critics to vote in favor of the recall.
“The recall election is almost perfectly timed to avoid controversy over pending legislation,” Marcia Godwin, professor of public administration at the University of La Verne, wrote on Friday. “There is no incentive for him to signal his support or opposition until September 14.”
And Critical Race Theory, a graduate and law school theory that examines how the American legal system is shaped and shapes race relations in the country, has been a hot topic in conservative media, often amalgamating with further discussions on race or racism by educators with theory.
Shortly after the bill was passed through the legislature, two of Newsom’s potential successors attacked the ethnic studies program as a critical race theory.
“The legislature has just passed a bill to make CRT a requirement for graduation,” said Kevin Kiley, Assembly Member, R-Granite Bay, wrote on Twitter. “Two years ago, even Gavin Newsom called the program ‘offensive in many ways’.
Kiley is vice chairman of the assembly education committee and a former English teacher at a public high school.
“My education plan ends the teaching of critical race theory in California,” Republican John Cox said in a press release that said if elected he would veto the project law of Medina. “We need to get politics out of the classroom. Children need to be in school to learn reading, writing, math and other skills to be successful in life.
Medina rejected this criticism.
“Most people have waited a long time for this to be implemented,” he said. “This whole discussion of critical right-wing race theory is a red herring. It really has nothing to do with this legislation and what ethnic studies intend to do.
Newsom must sign bills passed by the legislature by October 10 to become law on January 1. Last year, Newsom wrote that he wanted to sign this session’s version of the bill, but was concerned that the ethnically developing curriculum was not yet sufficiently balanced, equitable or inclusive. But he signed a bill of 2020 that requires Cal State University students to take an ethnic studies course to graduate, starting with the class of 2025.
Newsom should finally sign the bill, according to Jack Pitney, professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.
“Newsom is likely to win big. The result is also likely to make him a big favorite for re-election in 2022, ”Pitney wrote in an email Friday. “He has a lot of political capital and doesn’t have to be afraid of such a problem.”
Medina said he also believed Newsom would sign his bill, based on prior discussions with the governor on earlier versions of the bill and conversations with those close to him.
“Good things happen to those who wait,” Medina said.