MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin public schools would be prohibited from teaching students and training employees about concepts such as systemic racism and implicit bias under a Republican bill up for passage Tuesday in the state Assembly.
The measure would also have to pass the state Senate before it would head to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, where it almost certainly would be vetoed. The bill has no Democratic co-sponsors, but they don’t have the votes to stop it in the Legislature.
Wisconsin’s proposal follows a national trend of Republican-controlled legislatures moving to thwart certain ideas they associate with “critical race theory,” a framework legal scholars developed in the 1970s and 1980s that centers on the view that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and serves to maintain the dominance of whites in society.
Eight Republican governors have signed bills or budgets into law banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in K-12 schools or limiting how teachers can discuss racism and sexism in the classroom. Similar bills have been introduced or other steps have been taken in 19 additional states, according to an Education Week analysis.
Republicans across the country are using “critical race theory” and “indoctrination” as catchall phrases to describe racial concepts they find objectionable, including white privilege, systemic inequality and inherent bias.
The movement against the theory gained traction last year when former President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring federal contractors from conducting racial sensitivity trainings. Several state lawmakers subsequently inserted language from Trump’s now-defunct executive order into their own bills.
Education groups, including the National Education Association and the National Council for the Social Studies, are worried that the proposals will have a chilling effect on teachers and classroom discussions, and lead to a sanitized version of the nation’s history being taught in schools.
The Wisconsin bill would prohibit teaching that one race or sex is superior to another; a person is inherently racist by virtue of his or her race or sex; a person’s moral character isn’t determined by race or sex; a person should feel guilty for past acts committed by people of his or her race or sex; and systems based on meritocracy are racist or sexist or designed to oppress people of another race.
Wisconsin Democrats and other opponents have argued that “critical race theory” isn’t being taught in the state’s schools and the bill is more about furthering a political agenda that addressing any real problem.
The only registered supporter of the bill was the conservative anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage group Wisconsin Family Action. There were 18 registered opponents, including groups representing school boards, administrators and other officials, Milwaukee Public Schools, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Wisconsin Council of Churches and the statewide teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
Another bill the Assembly was scheduled to take up Tuesday would prohibit local governments and state agencies from training employees on such concepts, mirroring the Trump executive order. President Joe Biden lifted that order in January.
Violations of the Wisconsin bills would result in the loss of state aid for schools and funding for state agencies.