PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — An anti-critical race theory bill is making its way through the Arizona House. HB 2458 has certain restrictions on advocating and teaching race and ethnicity in the classroom, and on Tuesday afternoon, the House Education Committee passed it along party lines. The measure says staff can’t teach one race or ethnicity is better than the other, one race is inherently racist, a race or ethnicity is superior to others, moral character is determined by race, race guilt and more. Advocates say it keeps critical race theory out of Arizona schools, while opponents call it the “teacher gag law,” saying it prevents students from accurately learning about history. There would be a variety of penalties for any violations, including a $5,000 fine. In addition, a violation could be brought forward by a student, employee, or parent to the school district governing board.
Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, a Republican from Peoria and the bill’s sponsor, said teaching critical race theory would promote division among students. However, she also reassured board members that the bill would not jeopardize any AP classes if passed. “I’ve always taught our kids that you don’t ever look at somebody as a group. You look at them as an individual,” she said. “It’s step by step of one through seven of what will be an issue if it’s taught.”
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During the comment period, eighth-grade social studies teacher Marisol Garcia said her biggest concern about the bill was politicizing the classroom. “We can all agree that America goes through changes. It’s part of what makes America so great. My disappointment is that we’re spending it on issues like this but there are real issues facing our educators every single day,” she said.
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. George Weatherly said he found the bill unconstitutional. “To think about what democracy looks like you have to go to a war zone. You guys sit on a higher social level than most people around here, so we are divided by social and political class,” he said. “I am on the school board to represent what a good African American man looks like, but I think what goes on here is that we don’t have dialogue. This bill is unconstitutional on several points.”
Parent Christina Rogers said she’s concerned for the future of her children’s classes if the bill doesn’t pass. Rogers said critical race theory was little more than “racially-motivated propaganda.” “Our graduation rate is 70%. That’s something we definitely need to focus on. If we continue to teach CRT, how can we teach [mixed race] children? Are they oppressors or are they victims? This is a sad thing they’re trying to teach our children,” she said.
Rep. Laura Terech, a Democrat from Peoria, was upset about the potential $5,000 in fines. “This will have a chilling impact on teacher recruitment, which is already at an absolute crisis level in our state,” she said. “We are making life harder and harder on Arizona teachers.” The bill passed 6-4 and is headed to the House floor. Even if it makes it out of the state Legislature, Gov. Katie Hobbs said she would veto bills similar to this one. Republicans don’t have the votes to override a veto.
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