Wisconsin Examiner

Senate Advances Bill Banning Critical Race Theory

Committee advances bill that financially penalizes schools who disobey law.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Nov 30th, 2021 12:57 pm
Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Republicans on the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Education advanced a bill on Monday that would ban teaching certain topics about race and the harms of racism in schools, setting the bill up for a potential vote in the Senate when it returns in January.

The advancement of the bill aimed at prohibiting the teaching of so-called critical race theory in schools is part of a national effort that Republicans in Wisconsin and across the country have made into a campaign issue.

Critical race theory — a graduate-school-level framework that states American institutions are shaped by racism — was a key issue in an attempted recall of several members of the Mequon-Thiensville school board. The recall attempt drew the donations and attention of high profile Republicans across the state, including gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch.

Even though the recall attempt failed, Republicans in Wisconsin say they’ll continue to focus on education.

“Supposed blue state Virginia elects a Republican governor that ran on Education,” former Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt tweeted after Republican Glenn Youngkin, running on a platform that included opposition to critical race theory in schools, was elected earlier this month. “This is a winning issue for Republicans in 22. ‘Education’ [Gov. Tony Evers] should be hitting the panic button.”

Senate Bill 411 was approved and recommended for concurrence with the Assembly version in a series of 4-3 party-line votes by the education committee on Monday. The bill’s stated goal is to prevent students from being taught “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.”

Rep. Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego), one of the bill’s co-authors, said in testimony about the bill that it would ban the use of words and topics such as “critical self-reflection,” “marginalized communities” and “racial prejudice.”

The bill includes a provision that makes the state superintendent of schools withhold 10% of a district’s state funding where a teacher is found to have violated the law. It also includes a requirement that districts post their entire curriculum online.

Democrats have countered by saying critical race theory isn’t taught in schools but that limiting what can be taught will have a chilling effect on the teaching of U.S. history in classes — especially around topics such as slavery and the civil rights movement.

“There were several educators, [who] came to testify that talked about the fact that they were not teaching anything remotely close to critical race theory,” Rep. LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee), a former teacher, said when the bill passed the Assembly in September. “They talked about how if this was passed, they would feel uncomfortable, because you would be walking a tightrope and not knowing what you could say that could eventually get you in trouble and take money away from your district, which is problematic.”

Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) says he doesn’t think the focus on critical race theory in Wisconsin schools will help Republicans win elections and will ultimately reflect poorly on the legislators who voted for the bill.

“It’s part of a national effort that is just doing the latest iteration to keep the Lost Cause going,” Larson, who sits on the education committee and voted against the bill’s passage, says. “[It’s] trying to paper over some of the more racist history ingrained in our country. History is going to find it’s way out and ironically, those who try to cover up history are not viewed very fondly by those who study it in the future.”

The attempt to ban critical race theory isn’t the only culture war issue Wisconsin Republicans are focusing on in schools. On Sunday, a lawyer for the right wing law firm, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, appeared on the WISN show “UpFront” to talk about a lawsuit filed against the Kettle Moraine School District over a student’s ability to be referred to by a preferred gender identity in school without parental permission.

The lawsuit stems from an unidentified 12-year-old who identified as transgender and requested that teachers change the pronouns they used to identify the student.

WILL is suing the district, saying parents should have control over that decision. Luke Berg, the WILL lawyer, said the district’s decision to allow students to express their true gender identity is unconstitutional.

“Schools have to defer to parents about major decisions involving their children,” Berg said. “They normally do, yet they have carved out this one exception for gender identity transitions, and in our view that’s unconstitutional. They need to defer to parents about this major decision. So the goal is ultimately for a court to say that parents have a constitutional right to make this decision, and that schools must defer to those decisions.”

Earlier this year, Wisconsin and Republican states across the country passed laws that prohibited transgender women and girls from participating in youth, high school and collegiate sports. The Wisconsin bills were vetoed by Evers.

Larson says he thinks education is a major issue in Wisconsin, but not for the same reasons Republicans are pushing when they try to legislate how racism is taught or who can play women’s basketball.

“I think if anybody’s voting on education the first thing they’re going to care about is that our schools are criminally underfunded and the money is being used to give huge tax breaks to businesses that don’t need them or just being sat on,” he says. “I think it’s going to backfire as much as they think they’ve got something.”

Wisconsin Senate Republicans move school culture war bill forward was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner.

5 thoughts on “Senate Advances Bill Banning Critical Race Theory”

  1. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Republicans are white supremacists.

  2. frank a schneiger says:

    Here is hoping Chris Larson is right about the Republican ploy in this area. First of all, most of these people couldn’t tell the difference between Critical Race Theory and a chocolate malt at Leon’s.
    There are, however, likely to be two consequences that even the scorched earth Republicans may want to consider. But maybe not, given who they are. The first will be further declines in support for public education, bad for society, but music to the ears of those who hate anything named “public.”
    Then, the real long-term damage. With respect to the “empower parents” movement, aka, the keep white people the #1/best race movement, we can expect to see a sustained flight of good teachers from their profession. This is likely to be the most damaging effect of these toxic efforts.
    Remember the jokes about “Wisissippi”? Not so funny anymore.

  3. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    This is your friendly reminder that WILL is a Bradley Foundation l-funded lawsuit mill, and that the Bradleys have dodged Milwaukee property taxes for decades while trying to wreck public education and drive up property taxes even higher for homeowners through the voucher scam.

    Send them the bill, Milwaukee!

  4. gerrybroderick says:

    Another bold Republican plan to counter a non-existent “problem.” Jake is on the money regarding the source of such sculdugorous efforts. We all understand why Robin (“the boy wonder”) must always respond to any bat signal thrown into the clouds from atop the Bradley Foundation. After all it is not only the light that guides him, it is also the hand the feeds him.

  5. Mingus says:

    I think most parents trust their school districts with their children more than they trust politicians. I think the Kettle Moraine School District should have worked the gender identify issue with the parents of this twelve year old. Having worked in pupil services in MPS for years, there are always issues regarding school actions and the need for parental involvement/permission to look at what the issues are. When this is done, controversies like the one in the Kettle Moraine School District should be rare.

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