Wisconsin Republicans push back critical race theory in schools

MADISON – Group of Wisconsin lawmakers join a national republicans campaign pushing back on a decades-old theory that examines how slavery affected the way societal institutions treat black people more than a century later.

Lawmakers on Thursday released a law that challenges the way systemic racism is taught in schools. They said the proposal is designed to give parents more control over their children’s education.

“Children should not face state-sanctioned discrimination or psychological distress in an educational environment based on unchanging characteristics,” Muskego representative Chuck Wichgers told a press conference.

Although the bills do not mention or define critical race theory namely, they would ban “stereotypes of race or gender” in school education and training. Lawmakers did not answer questions whether the proposal would ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools.

“Every school district and teacher teaches something different about what you call critical race theory,” Wichgers said.

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Representative Kristina Shelton, D-Green Bay, tweeted that the proposals would ban anti-racism and sexism programs in schools.

“It’s so revealing. Take racism and sexism so personally that people are willing to keep it alive and well for their own comfort and their own power rather than dismantling it for the good of all,” Shelton said. , a former member of the Green Bay School Board.

Concepts that would be prohibited to teach reflect the language of a decree-law now overturned of former President Donald Trump who banned anti-racist training for federal contractors.

They include that “an individual, by reason of race or sex, bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other individuals of the same race or sex”.

Monica Wichgers, who is the lawmaker’s sister-in-law, said her mixed-race and Madison school-going children “see themselves as perpetual victims and (think of) the white race as perpetual oppressors.”

Bills for school systems, UW, colleges of technology, and state agencies

Legislators’ bills would prohibit school boards, charter schools, UW system schools, technical colleges, and state agencies from requiring employees to undergo anti-gender and anti-racism training. . The proposal would also require schools and colleges to publish program and program material online.

The bills would withhold 10% of state funding from schools or government agencies that violate the requirements. Parents, students or employees could file complaints for alleged violations.

A spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin system said university officials were reviewing the legislation.

“This bill is a distraction”

Erin Forrest, transition director for the new superintendent of public schools, Jill Underly, supported discussions on race and said the Republican-controlled legislature should focus on funding education. Wisconsin is risk of losing more than $ 1 billion in federal aid to schools after approving funding less than that proposed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

“This bill is a distraction from the very real and urgent needs of our districts in the service of all of our children and families. The legislature has put over a billion dollars in federal funding at risk and is now proposing divisive, unnecessary legislation to try to change the subject, “Forrest said.” Not to mention, that’s good, not bad, to discuss how we can make our country a better place by addressing the legacy of racism. Problems don’t go away when we ignore them. “

Madison Democrat Representative Francesca Hong said Republicans were abandoning their previous positions of allowing control of local school boards to “perpetuate a culture war”.

“We now know that this legislation is part of a larger political movement,” Hong said. “There’s no real threat (in Wisconsin). A lot of critical race theory isn’t even taught in our public schools.”

Republicans in state legislatures across the country reject critical race theory. The governors of Oklahoma and Idaho recently signed bills banning his teaching in classrooms.

Wisconsin Republicans join national debate

Senior Wisconsin Republicans have entered the national debate, saying Wisconsin and the rest of the country do not have policies or systems in place that disadvantage black residents and that children should not be made aware of this. possibility.

“I don’t believe America is a systematically racist nation,” US Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, said Thursday at an event hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club.

Former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is planning a race for the governor in 2022, called on Evers to ban critical breed theory altogether.

“We need to prepare children to be part of the 21st century workforce, not enlist them to be part of the cultural war of the left,” she tweeted on May 24.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester told reporters he did not examine the bills in detail but supported the concepts behind them.

“The idea that we want to make sure people are never told that one breed is superior (and) another doesn’t seem like something the vast majority – I think everyone in Wisconsin – should. be okay, ”Vos said.

What is Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory was developed in the 1970s by jurists who wanted to examine why anti-discrimination laws fail to address persistent inequalities. The framework examines how black Americans are treated in typical societal interactions, including with the police, when seeking bank loans, or when buying a home.

Representative Samba Baldeh, a Democrat from Madison, said schools should not face funding cuts for allowing difficult conversations about race, which he said should “always be accepted and take place.”

“He’s just a non-runner as far as I’m concerned,” said Baldeh. “The result of legislation like this is to instill a climate of fear in schools, the university system and all other educational institutions.”

Hong added that racism is ingrained in the history of the state and that talking about race is not “to threaten other cultures, it is to really uplift each other’s communities.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned similar efforts in other states and denounced Wisconsin lawmakers on Friday for joining the push.

“It is time to end the introduction of these nationwide cookie-cutter bills which are designed both to deny the systemic racism experienced by minority communities on a daily basis and to stoke fires. of a cultural war for perceived political gain, “CAIR National Communications said, director Ibrahim Hooper.

Molly Beck of the Sentinel Journal and USA Today contributed to this report.

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