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Where Does the Discussion of Critical Race Theory Translate to Policy?

Critical Race Theory (CRT) seems to be the latest political catchphrase and FOCUS’ team of legislative policy analysts is here to give a bit of legislative context. “Critical race theory” is an academic theory which discusses how racism and discrimination has helped shape American history. The academic discipline has been around for decades, but Education Week reports it is a new topic to be debated being taught in a K-12 setting.

The debate about whether critical race theory should be taught in K-12 public schools really began in the spring of 2021 and has continued through the summer. Historically, the debate about what should be taught to our children as part of public education is long and has covered many hot topics over the years. For example, the debate about how much sex education should be taught in schools has gone on for decades.

Critical Race Theory has recently been discussed in the California gubernatorial recall race from candidate Caitlyn Jenner, who stated she was firmly against the teaching of critical race theory in California public schools.

Beyond the political back-and-forth, the number of state policy proposals seeking to regulate the curriculum have recently grown, but their overall volume remains pretty low. Of the roughly two dozen current pieces of legislation that have been brought forward on this topic, 10 or so are resolutions — some of which only request that the “teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools” be studied, allowing lawmakers to see data and form their own opinions. Utah HR/SR 901 “recommends” against the teaching of CRT in schools. Michigan SB 460 would ban the teaching of CRT, The New York Times’ 1619 Project and other specified race-related curriculum. Violators would face financial penalties. As of this publication, most of the pieces of legislation regarding CRT that have been adopted or enacted are nonbinding resolutions.

The most recent legislation signed into law is Arizona HB 2906, signed by Republican Governor Doug Ducey. It “prevents local governments from teaching critical race theory,” The Hill reports. It stands to reason that we will see an increase in legislation introduced on this topic this fall and into the coming state sessions in the new year.

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