SACRAMENTO-California will require students to complete an ethnic studies course to graduate from high school under a bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday, and it is believed to be the first state to order in such a course.
The new law comes a year after California leaders and activists focused more on racial justice following the May 2020 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It also came as conservatives across the country take issue with lessons in K-12 about systematic racism and protesting at school board meetings against “critical racial theory.”
High school students are not required to take courses for graduation until 2029, while schools are required to offer ethnic education courses beginning in 2025, giving districts and official education time to fully develop the courses. The curriculum has been subject to intense debate as some ethnic groups have expressed concerns over how to teach their history.
Newsom’s office on Friday pointed to research from Stanford University showing ethnic studies that “can help expand educational opportunities in schools, educate students about the diverse communities that make up California, and strengthen academic engagement and achievement. “
The state took several years to develop a curriculum model for ethnic studies and drew criticism from the Jewish Legislature, who said the first draft deleted their entire history. Schools will still be able to locally develop their own plan under Assembly Bill 101.
The bill requires districts to consider the “lengthy, thorough, negotiated and integrated process” taken by the State Board of Education to create a framework for the curriculum but allows schools to develop their own plan if approved by a local school board subject to public hearings. .
The ethnic framework of the state study, approved in March, promotes “a social awareness” and will discuss “institutional systems of advantage” and forms of bigotry including anti-Blackness, xenophobia and anti -Semitism.
The author of the bill, Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), has repeatedly pushed the law on ethnic studies to fail. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, saying that while he agreed to the mission, he had concerns that the curriculum remained “insufficiently balanced” after the concerns from Jewish and Arab American organizations.
Former Governor Jerry Brown also vetoed the attempt in 2018, saying that while he values ethnic studies, schools can now offer it on their own without a mandate.
The prolonged delay in implementation reflects the potential logistical and political challenge in developing the course and mandating it for completion. The bill “provides a number of precautions to ensure that courses are free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students,” Newsom officials said in a statement.
“I want to recognize the countless young people, high school and college students, teachers and professors, who have organized, demonstrated, boycotted classes, and went on hunger strikes to demand a a more equitable and inclusive education system, ”Medina said in a statement. “The signing of AB 101 today is a step in the long struggle for equal education for all students.”