Will the third time be the charm for making ethnic studies a California high school graduation requirement?

On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the California legislature sent Assembly Bill 101 to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Should he sign it into law, the state’s high school students, starting with the Class of 2030, would be required to pass an ethnic studies class to graduate. Ethnic studies courses would have to be offered at high schools starting in the 2025-26 school year.

Assembly Member Jose Medina, D-Riverside, hopes to get his ethnic studies bill passed on the third attempt. (Courtesy photo)

The bill is the brainchild of Assembly Member Jose Medina, D-Riverside, a former ethnic studies teacher at Riverside’s Poly High School and an ex-Jurupa school board member.

This is not Medina’s first go-round with the issue.

He first introduced a bill to make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement in 2018, two years after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2016 bill requiring the state to create an ethnic studies curriculum. Brown vetoed an ethnic studies graduation requirement bill in 2018 and Newsom vetoed a second one in 2020.

“The third time’s the charm,” Medina said Friday, Sept. 10. “I think the governor’s going to sign it.”

Getting the ethnic studies curriculum right has proved tricky. Earlier drafts were accused of being anti-Semitic and leaving out various minority communities. After four years, the state board of education approved a model ethnic studies curriculum in March. The curriculum looks at the histories and contributions of Asian, Black, Latino and Native Americans, along with lessons on Arab Americans, Jewish Americans, Pacific Islanders and Sikh Americans.

But criticism that earlier versions of the curriculum were anti-Semitic hasn’t completely gone away. On Thursday, Sept. 9, the Amcha Initiative, which opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on college campuses, called on Newsom to veto AB 101.

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“Despite the efforts of the Legislative Jewish Caucus and some Jewish organizations, the reality is that there is no way these amendments can prevent anti-Semitic curricula like the first draft or even the more overtly anti-Semitic Liberated curriculum from finding their way into California classrooms,” an Amcha news release reads, in part. “The only way to ensure these anti-Semitic curricula will not make their way into classrooms on a wide scale is if the governor vetoes this bill, which we urge him to do.”

Medina noted Friday that the assembly’s Jewish Caucus supported the bill, as have many other Jewish groups.

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But there are additional challenges to getting the bill signed, even since last fall, when Newsom vetoed the second version of an ethnic studies graduation requirement bill.

For starters, the governor now faces a possible recall Tuesday, Sept. 14. He may want to avoid signing any bills that could spur critics to vote in favor of the recall.

“The recall election is almost perfectly timed to avoid controversy on pending legislation,” Marcia Godwin, a professor …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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