A bill that would make California the first state in the country to require high school students to take an ethnic studies course for graduation was passed by the state legislature on Wednesday, the latest turning point in ‘a controversial multi-year process on the proposal.
Assembly Bill 101 (AB 101), which now awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature before becoming state law, has been challenged by some Jewish groups, who have argued that it would allow schools adopt previously proposed curricula that included anti-Semitic and anti-Israel material.
In 2020, Newsom criticized the first draft of an Ethnic Studies Curriculum (EMSC) model as “offensive in many ways,” and then vetoed an earlier measure requiring its passage in California schools.
The version of the mandate adopted on Wednesday was hailed by the California Jewish Legislative Caucus for including “important clarifying amendments” which they said addressed concerns raised by the Jewish community.
September 10, 2021 5:19 pm
“These amendments – which expressly prohibit the use of a program that was rejected because of concerns about anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias – reinforce the strong safeguards included in AB 101 and leave no doubt about the fact that hatred and fanaticism against Jews, Israelis or any other community is prohibited by law and cannot be taught in our classrooms, ”the caucus said.
“Over the coming months, the Jewish Caucus will continue to remain actively engaged in ensuring that the teaching of ethnic studies is free from any anti-Jewish bias or discrimination and adheres to the highest educational standards. “
A leading critic of AB 101, AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, argued on Thursday that the wording of the bill would only advise against, not strictly prohibit, schools from teach the rejected project of the EMSC or other versions of the program presented by some of the same. authors.
“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, especially as their support from the state’s leading teacher unions and the ethnic studies higher education community, ”she said.
The head of the anti-Semitism watchdog also criticized the bill’s public scrutiny procedure for using a program other than the state-approved version, which she said “requires parents to challenge alternatives assessed by individual school districts.
“The only way to ensure that these anti-Semitic programs don’t end up in classrooms on a large scale is for the governor to veto this bill, which we urge him to do,” Rossman-Benjamin said. .