California Ethnic Studies Bill Passes, Awaits Brown’s Signature


In a move that helps to boost the growing movement toward the inclusion of ethnic studies in California, a new bill was recently passed by the state assembly that would create an optional model ethnic studies curriculum.

Educators and activists across California say that if Assembly Bill 101 were to become law, it would help to advance the achievement of non-white students in the state, who currently make up 75% of the student body.

The bill, authored by Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo, was passed in a 61 to 15 vote with bipartisan support, though all those who voted against the bill were Republican.  The bill had passed through the state senate just the day before and is currently on its way to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not made it publicly known whether or not he will sign the legislation, writes Roque Planas for The Huffington Post.

The original version of the bill sought to require all high schools in the state to include the ethnic course curriculum.  However, amendments were made to make the curriculum optional in an effort to reduce costs of implementation.

“A lot of people who have worked on trying to standardize ethnic studies statewide are very pleased,” Alejo told The Huffington Post. “It’s not everything we wanted. … Nonetheless, this is a big victory for the ethnic studies movement. California is again leading the way by creating this model curriculum and we hope other states will follow.”

A number of educators, including Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, a professor at San Francisco State University who has been working toward the implementation of ethnic studies courses across the city over the last seven years, approve of the bill, and would like to see it become law.  These supporters feel that in order for students to succeed, they must first see their own cultures included within the curriculum.

“It’s definitely a step forward,” Tintiangco-Cubales told HuffPost. “I’m hoping the governor understands how important it is for those of us teaching at the collegiate and K-12 level to have this happen.”

Others are not convinced that the bill would help further education in California, arguing that schools should instead focus on STEM subjects.

“I think this is a well-intentioned bill, but it has the potential to hurt children,” said Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, himself a former principal. “The only way to make sure our children are successful in a world economy is to stress math and science.”

A push for the inclusion of ethnic studies has been increasing nationwide since the Arizona state legislature banned a Mexican-American studies program five years ago that was said to boost student achievement by an independent study.  The decision came after conservatives in the state argued that the program would create a feeling of resentment toward white people.