MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Lawmakers spent nearly seven hours Wednesday debating and listening to testimony on bills that would ban Wisconsin schools from teaching ideas linked to critical race theory.
The measures, introduced by legislative Republicans in June, would prevent public schools, universities and technical colleges from teaching students and training employees about concepts such as systemic racism and implicit bias.
Republican Sen. André Jacque, of De Pere, an author of the bills, said they are meant to stop a “false narrative” that “promotes racist indoctrination” he said does not belong in the halls of schools or government.
“I introduced this legislation at the request of many parents in my district and across the state,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee, the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee, challenged the co-authors to specify how many districts in the state were actually teaching critical race theory. Another co-author of the legislation, Republican Rep. Chuck Wichgers, of Muskego, said 100 teachers signed a petition about their efforts to teach critical race theory. He was not able to present the document during the hearing.
Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines history through the lens of racism. There is little to no evidence that critical race theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students, though some ideas central to it, such as lingering consequences of slavery, have been.
About 60 people registered to testify about the bills Wednesday, and the hearing at times devolved into raised voices by constituents as well as lawmakers, the State Journal reported.
Democratic Rep. LaKeshia Myers, a member of the Assembly Education Committee, said if the bills pass as is, every public school district should prepare to go bankrupt due to the financial punitive measures attached to the legislation.
The bills “are a textbook description of cognitive dissidence,” she said.