Teachers in Arizona could face a fine of $ 5,000 if they allow class discussions on controversial topics such as racism or do not give equal weight to divisive matters, under the provisions of a last-minute amendment that passed the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Changes to Senate Bill 1532 aim to ensure that students do not learn that their race, ethnicity or gender determines their character, Representative Michelle Udall R-Mesa said of the amendment she introduced.
But Democrats denounced it as excessive interference in the classroom and said it was a thinly veiled attempt to stir up public discord over critical race theory and to deepen the views. partisan divisions in Arizona.
Critical Race Theory seeks to highlight how historical inequalities and racism continue to shape public policies and social conditions today.
Conservative critics have argued that the approach is harmful, potentially forcing students to subscribe to certain ideologies and making them feel inferior because of their race.
Governor Doug Ducey was elusive on Thursday about the bill, which could reach his office if the Senate passes the measure. He said he did not want teachers to be punished, but added that the state must ensure that “the right lessons are learned and taught” at school.
Teachers, he said, should stick to the curriculum.
Udall introduced the amendment on Wednesday, sparking hours of debate, almost exclusively from Democrats. By the end of the day, the measure had passed the House in a party line vote with unified Republican support and is now awaiting a Senate decision.
Udall, who chairs the House Education Committee, rejected arguments that the bill seeks to eliminate discussion of racism from Arizona classrooms.
“We all recognize that these things have happened,” she told fellow lawmakers.
“We cannot allow children in our public schools to learn that they are not created equal, that their skin color, ethnicity or gender in some way determines their character or their actions, ”she said. “No form of racism should enter our classrooms. Bias teaching must be stopped.”
But Democrats said the measure could create false equivalents.
“Should teachers prepare positive arguments for racism? Asked Minority Parliamentary Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix. “For Nazism? For the Holocaust? “
The bill, he said, would prevent schools from recognizing the facts because they are embarrassing.
House Democrats have said the bill is a cut-and-paste version of legislation that was passed in Idaho and Arkansas and passes through the Texas Legislature.
“Don’t Texas my Arizona,” said Rep Aaron Leiberman, D-Paradise Valley. “There is no evidence of a problem. We should stop wasting our time on cultural warfare issues imported from other states.”
Copy, paste, legislate:Revealing Hidden Influences on Legislation in State Houses Nationwide
What’s in the invoice
Among other things, the bill would not allow school administrators to require education that teaches “that one race, ethnic group or sex is inherently superior morally or intellectually to another race, ethnic group or sex.”
This language is almost identical to the wording in Idaho law: “Any gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, signed the bill last week.
Other provisions of the bill would prohibit discussions that would cause anyone to feel guilty, anguish or psychological distress because of their race, gender or ethnicity; another section would prohibit and prohibit lessons that would make a student responsible for “acts committed by other members of the same race, ethnic group or sex”.
The development of lessons that seek to address racial and social inequalities has sparked debate in various school districts in Valley.
In March, the Litchfield Elementary School District was on the verge of taking action courses designed to improve the lives of children of color when a conflict between boards of directors arises, by putting the effort aside.
Two years ago, Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson called on Southeast Valley school districts for attending teacher training programs that he described as “deep equity”.
Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, at the Statehouse on Wednesday asked what the threshold would be for determining whether a topic is “controversial” and may trigger sanctions. These would include a fine of up to $ 5,000, as well as the responsibility to reimburse all school resources used to set up such a program.
“We go beyond our limits in the classroom and the relationship between teacher and student,” said Friese.
A provision in the bill would prohibit schools from requiring instruction on “controversial issues of public policy or social affairs that are not essential to the learning objectives of the course.”
However, discussions of “accurate representations” of historical events, sex education, and lessons on how to identify and report abuse and historical events are not considered controversial.
The irony of rushing into a bill that would punish teachers for their curriculum in the middle of National Teacher Appreciation Week has not escaped Rep. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix. A teacher, Schwiebert said the bill is “punitive and frightening about the art and the importance of teaching.”
Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, a teachers’ union, called the bill too broad and warns that teachers cannot be trusted to handle important social and political issues. If it becomes law, the bill could further erode the state’s ability to recruit and retain good teachers, he predicted.
Thomas said school boards, textbook review committees and other community organizations are the legitimate places to determine which program is appropriate for a community.
“I don’t think anyone has elected lawmakers to determine what can and cannot be discussed in our classrooms,” Thomas said.
The bill was passed by the Senate in February as a measure to boost bus service in Maricopa County.
In its new form, SB1532 requires a final vote in the Senate, or it could be sent to a conference committee to resolve differences with the version adopted by the House on Wednesday. The decision rests with the President of the Senate, Karen Fann.
Journalist from the Republic Paulina Pineda contributed to this article.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.