SARATOGA – Wyoming should clarify and impose its own educational standards regarding “equal and equal rights” rather than anticipate federal mandates to teach critical race theory, according to Sen. Charles Scott, R -Casper.
Scott, chairman of the Joint Education Interim Committee, asked committee members to task the Legislative Services Office with drafting a bill based on a two-page plan he wrote and titled “Instruction on Equality and Education. ‘equality of rights”. He distributed hard copies of the document to other committee members just prior to the conclusion of the committee meeting late Monday afternoon in Saratoga.
The committee declined to move the measure to a bill on a 7-7 vote Tuesday night.
Several opposition members said the measure attempts to usurp the authority of the State Board of Education, which has the power to set standards for kindergarten to grade 12 instructional guidelines.
The draft measure that Scott released on Monday stated that the teaching of equality and equal rights in Wyoming K-12 schools must be based on “the principles set out in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. of the United States and Article 1, Sections 2 and 3 and Article 6, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming.
The measure would have required that students receive a copy of the articles from the fourth grade onwards, and that “the material be read aloud to students during class and time be provided for an age-appropriate discussion. that means”.
Students would also be informed that “Wyoming is proud to be the first jurisdiction to ensure at all times that men and women have the same rights to vote and to be a candidate and to be elected and furthermore as the bill providing for this Equality was passed in the first session of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature in 1869, so Wyoming has never denied this equality since its citizens were in control of their political system.
The facts about “slavery and racial discrimination by law and custom must be taught in an age appropriate manner,” Scott’s draft measure continued. âThe historic struggles to end slavery and discrimination must be taught as an effort to live up to our founding principles and as being aided by those principles. “
Teachers and school staff “are encouraged to teach that it is wrong to be unfair to anyone or to treat someone differently based on their skin color or ethnicity.”
If the federal government conditions federal funding on “teaching contrary” to the principles, concludes Scott’s draft measure, the Wyoming superintendent of public education “will refuse to accept federal funding and will not comply with the law. federal requirement â.
The term Critical Race Theory refers to a wide range of US academic analysis and studies of systemic discrimination rooted in the nation’s history that helps explain persistent prejudices and disparities, according to academics.
Several states have taken steps to restrict the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, fearing that the Biden administration may make this teaching a condition of federal funding for public schools. Such a mandate does not yet exist.
The idea of ââa potential term gained momentum after the 2020 election of President Joe Biden and his removal, by executive order, from President Trump’s 1776 Commission. The commission rebuked a perceived narrative in Project 1619 that the founding of the United States was based on racial oppression that still manifests itself in inequality today.
âRather than just being against something the federal government might or might not ask us to do, I think it’s much better to have a positive approach and teach equality based on what we have. put in place. [Wyomingâs] Constitution and what was put in the Declaration of Independence, âScott told WyoFile on Monday. “If we do it that way, if they ask us to teach something that opposes it [Scottâs pending bill draft], then it would be an ability to refuse funds.
Senator Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, voted against the measure and said it was a clear departure from the Wyoming Constitution and the long-established division of powers that prioritize the local control over how to meet curriculum standards set by the State Board of Education.
âFor us to take a path that is so important, where we start to prescribe and dictate educational content assuming someone can apply,â Rothfuss said. “Wow.”
The concern that the federal government could effectively impose a curriculum by making its adoption a condition of federal funding for education emerged in another draft measure that Scott presented to the Education Committee.
Draft Education measure – the ban on accepting federal funds would have allowed the state superintendent to ban spending “any” federal funds on education if it requires “the use of specific textbooks or teaching materials. contrary to article 7, section 11 of the Wyoming constitution [sic]. “
This measure failed Tuesday with a vote of six yes and eight no.
Critics have alleged that a lack of clear standards for civics and history in Wyoming’s K-12 schools invites outside special interests to push for particular narratives.
Superintendent of Education Jillian Balow, a Republican, issued a press release on May 4 alleging that the US Department of Education’s US History and Civics Grant programs under the Biden administration “is an attempt to standardize the teaching of controversial and politically fashionable theories on American history.”
Wyoming Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis has denounced unsubstantiated claims that the Biden administration is preparing to make compulsory Project 1619 curricula for public schools a condition of federal funding.
âStudents and teachers should have an open and honest dialogue in the classroom about the history of our country,â Lummis said in a June 14 statement. “However, Project 1619 advances an anti-American agenda and a warped revisionist history with hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”
WyoFile is an independent, non-profit news organization focused on the people, places, and politics of Wyoming.