Sen. Andre Jacque | WisEye
Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban teaching about the harms of racism in the state’s K-12 schools. The bill, which was already passed by the Assembly, will be sent to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers who is likely to veto the measure.
Republicans in Wisconsin and across the country have spent the last year working to ban so-called critical race theory from schools and universities because they say it teaches white students to feel bad about themselves. Legislation in other states has resulted in books being banned from classrooms and school libraries.
The bill passed Tuesday in a 20-13 vote. Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) was the lone Republican joining Democrats in voting no.
The bill prevents school districts from teaching “that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex and that an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other individuals of the same race or sex.”
If a school district violates the law, the proposed legislation mandates that the state superintendent of schools withhold 10% of state aid from that district’s public schools. Parents are also allowed to bring actions against the district if they believe the law has been violated.
Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere), one of the bill’s co-authors, said that passing this bill is in line with Martin Luther King Jr.’s message that people should be judged “by the content of their character.”
“Just over a week ago, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and of course one of his most famous quotes comes from the speech talking about how he has a dream that one day children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” Jacque said. “And yet there are those that would want to push an ideology that turns that on its head. Now one of those ideologies is critical race theory.”
Democrats, including the few Black members of the Senate, countered by saying the bill will prevent the teaching an accurate portrayal of history and that people in Wisconsin are still judged by the color of their skin, so children should learn about that reality.
Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) outlined several ways Black children are discriminated against across Wisconsin and recounted the time her son was detained by police as he brought a turkey to a neighbor.
Taylor said the only way to confront these issues and prevent children from being discriminated against is to tell the truth so the state can be better.
“This is a sad day,” she said. “Because our motto was Forward, not Backwards.”
“And in order for Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote, for young Black and brown children, to be seen by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, we’re gonna have to be honest about our history,” Taylor continued. “We’re gonna have to approach it, head on, not whitewash it. And if we don’t learn from our past, we’re doomed to repeat it. And as long as I’m standing on this floor, I promise to be the voice for the voiceless. I promise to speak to the real racism that exists. It doesn’t mean that everybody is horrible, but it does mean that we need to talk about it so that we can get the bad apples out the bunch. We can’t learn from the past if you’re unwilling to learn it, if you’re unwilling for it to be taught, if we’re afraid to be honest.”
The bill is likely to play a large role in the next year as the 2022 election cycle heats up. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch has already used critical race theory as a key component of her campaign platform and attempted to help anti-critical race theory activists fight a school board recall campaign in Mequon last year.
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