California Should Prioritize Math and Reading Over Ethnic Studies
“California’s ethnic studies graduation law can be suspended without further legislative action under the bill’s own terms”
Ethnic studies don’t matter if kids can’t read or do basic math.
The Legislature can — and should — pull the plug on ethnic studies
California kids are in trouble.
Less than half meet national standards for literacy, and only one-third meet standards for math. The picture is grimmer for minorities: percentages hover around 30% for African Americans, American Indians and Hispanic/Latino students in literacy, and 20% for math.
Last October, Gov. Gavin Newsom underscored the urgency of getting California students “the resources they need to thrive.” Three weeks later, however, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislature’s independent fiscal adviser, pressed Newsom to claw back billions of promised spending because of a looming $24 billion budget deficit.
Faced with students’ abysmal academic performance and the prospect of severe belt-tightening, Newsom and state legislators are now forced to scrutinize their fiscal promises and missteps.
First on their list should be new expensive educational initiatives that do not demonstrate academic benefits, chief among them California’s 2021 ethnic studies high school graduation requirement (AB-101). Its proponents’ bold claims that ethnic studies courses improve academic achievement evaporate when held to scientific scrutiny. A 2022 critique by UCLA and University of Pennsylvania professors of the single quantitative study cited as proof of these claims found that “no conclusion” could be drawn from the data, charging that the study “should not have been published … much less relied upon in the formation of public policy.”
Fortunately, California’s ethnic studies graduation law can be suspended without further legislative action under the bill’s own terms, which state the requirement becomes operative “only upon an appropriation of funds by the Legislature.” As former Assemblymember Luis Alejo, sponsor of several ethnic studies bills, admitted, “[A]ny bill that has that language inserted is, in effect, defunded.”
That fail-safe language was a last-minute amendment, inserted after the addition of a series of “guardrail” amendments intended to ensure that required ethnic studies courses would be “free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students.” Together, these amendments reflected legislators’ growing concerns about what the bill’s implementation would mean for the state and its students.
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I don’t understand the next-to-last paragraph.
It’s an “ethnic studies graduation LAW,” not a school department requirement. That means it had the votes to be passed by the legislature.
It had a clause that said it had to be funded to become active.
Alejo implies the law is DOA because it will not be funded.
Why would there be enough votes in a legislature to pass a bill, but not enough to fund it?
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