MADISON – Wisconsin school officials would not be allowed to teach students and staff about systemic racism under legislation Republicans in the state assembly passed on Tuesday.
At the heart of the bill proposed by Representative Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego, is the national controversy over critical race theory – although the legislation under debate avoids mentioning the concept. Although the specific definitions differ, Critical Race Theory holds that racism has penetrated American social, economic, and legal institutions and created disadvantage for people of color.
Supported by Republicans, Assembly Bill 411 was passed 60-38. He’s heading to the Senate, which is also Republican-controlled. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is expected to veto if that happens to him.
Another measure, Assembly Bill 414, was passed by the same margin and also goes to the Senate. This would prohibit government agencies from holding training sessions for employees who say individuals are responsible for acts of people of the same race.
The bills were introduced this year by Republican lawmakers as part of a move among conservatives fearing that children would be exposed to the idea that there is systemic racism, potentially leaving white college students to feel guilty . Many educators fear that teachers will come under pressure to clean up history lessons, as well as other subjects that involve the intersection of race and culture.
Democratic Representative LaKeshia Myers of Milwaukee said critical race theory is not taught in K-12 schools and called the legislation part of “Southern Strategy 2.0”, referring to Republican calls to racist opinions.
Myers, deputy principal of a college in Madison, criticized the bill for a provision that results in reduced aid to schools if they violate the terms of the bill.
“It sounds like the bankruptcy of public education to me,” Myers said.
Republicans have said they are trying to make sure teachers don’t stereotype anyone.
“We don’t want schools to deceive students and teach things that… maybe a teacher wants them to hear, as opposed to the facts,” Republican Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac said.
In a hearing last month, Jeremy Stoddard, professor of curriculum and teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said teachers are not intentionally trying to make students feel bad.
“My fear is that if this becomes law, it will have a chilling effect preventing teachers from teaching a full story telling,” he said at the time.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos R-Rochester said everyone should support the ideas behind the legislation.
“What’s the harm in making every person in the state realize that we don’t want sexism, we don’t want racism, we don’t want stereotypes taught in our schools?” ” He asked.
Republicans have said another measure, Senate Bill 463, aims to expose inappropriate classroom material and lessons, if they exist.
They argued that parents should have immediate access to anything teachers plan to use in classrooms.
“It’s not our job to control school boards or school board philosophies or programs,” Wichgers said at a hearing in August. “The bill gives parents a recourse that if someone breaks the law, that they have access to this material… this bill does not restrict the teaching of history.”
Nearly two dozen groups representing schools and child welfare have signed up against the bills, with many saying the ambiguous language could lead to dangerous censorship of important historical events.
COVID, citizenship and cursive
The Assembly is also expected to pass Assembly Bill 564, which would require Evers to provide $ 100 million in federal COVID-19 assistance to Wisconsin schools for mental health programs.
Evers opposed the measure, saying aid to schools should occur on a recurring basis in the state budget. This summer, he announced that he was giving schools $ 100 million in COVID relief funds to use as they see fit because he believes the funding for schools in the state budget passed by Republicans was insufficient.
The bill will then go to the Senate.
The assembly, 59 votes to 39, on Tuesday approved a bill requiring elementary schools to teach students to write in cursive. The measure, Assembly Bill 435, then passes to the Senate.
Similar legislation was passed by the Assembly in 2019, but was blocked in the Senate last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Assembly also passed a Vos law which would establish a civic education curriculum for all grade levels. Assembly Bill 563 would require schools to teach students about the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and federalist documents. It would also force them to compare democratic principles to communism, socialism and totalitarianism.
This would not force private schools to implement or exclude educational materials that are “in conflict with religious doctrines or the mission of the program.”
Democratic Representative Sylvia Ortiz-Velez of Milwau joined Republicans in passing the measure. This bill also goes to the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 398, which would require schools to observe 9/11 as a day to honor police and firefighters, and Senate Bill 449, which would grant up to 2 million dollars in grants to schools to develop safety plans. .
The two bills then go to the Assembly.
You can find out who your legislators are and how to contact them here.