State Assembly Set To Vote On Bills Limiting How Race, Racism Are Taught In Wisconsin

The state Assembly is set to vote Tuesday on a controversial proposal that would limit how race and racism are taught in elementary and high schools across Wisconsin.

Under the Republican-backed plan, teachers would be barred from giving lessons that convey that one race or sex is superior to another 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.”

The proposal follows a national trend of GOP legislators advancing bills on the state and national levels that they say are aimed at protecting students from harmful and divisive lessons about racism. Since the plan’s introduction in Wisconsin and during public hearings on the measure at the state Capitol, lawmakers and advocates have clashed over the measure, with some arguing it is unnecessary and could have a chilling effect on important teaching about systemic racism in the United States.

The bill also prohibits school districts and independent charter schools from requiring employees to attend any training that includes any of the concepts outlined in the bill. School boards or private school operators that oversee teachers who violate the proposed restrictions would lose 10 percent of their state funding.

A similar bill also up for a vote Tuesday would place the same limits on anti-racism and anti-sexism for state and local government employees. Under that plan, state agencies or local governments that violate the training limits would face an immediate state funding reduction equal to 10 percent of their funding in the previous year.

Neither of the bills have been voted on in the state Senate. If approved by both chambers of the Legislature, they could be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers. 

Republican Redistricting Resolution Would Favor Existing Political Boundaries

The Assembly is also scheduled to vote on a resolution that would set a state policy that Wisconsin’s next set of political district maps “retain as much as possible the core of existing districts.”

The redistricting process, which takes place every 10 years, began in earnest last month with the release of federal U.S. Census data. Since then, several lawsuits have already been filed over Wisconsin’s next set of maps. Last week, the state Supreme Court agreed to take one case, while Republicans appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt another. 

Democrats were quick to criticize the resolution, which was unveiled last week, because they have argued for years that Wisconsin’s existing maps are gerrymandered and unconstitutional. A federal lawsuit about Wisconsin’s current maps went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before being dismissed after a ruling in a similar case. 

Republicans have countered that the proposal is aimed at increasing transparency at the outset of the Legislature’s work on new maps. 

Additional Proposals Up For Votes Would Change Requirements For Civics Education, Require Coronavirus Aid Reports 

Other bills under consideration by Assembly lawmakers Tuesday would:

  • Require school boards to make information about learning materials and educational activities used for pupil instruction available to the public. The bill is also scheduled for a vote before the state Senate on Tuesday. 
  • Require the state Department of Public Instruction to create model curricula for civics education, which must meet certain standards, and require students to complete a certain amount of civics education in order to graduate from high school. State schools Superintendent Jill Underly has said she supports bolstering civics education and graduation requirements. The bill has yet to be voted on in the state Senate. 
  • Require elementary schools to include cursive writing in their curricula and require that students be able to write legibly in cursive by the end of fifth grade. The bill has yet to be voted on in the state Senate. 
  • Require state agencies to publicly post information about how they have spent federal coronavirus relief money and require Gov. Tony Evers to allocate $100 million of the latest funding round to schools for mental health programs. The bill has yet to be voted on in the state Senate. 

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.