LANSING, Mich. (Oct. 26, 2021) — Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), executive vice chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, today denounced the passage of legislation by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness to restrict the way racism is taught in schools.
Senate Bill 460, sponsored by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton Township), is an attempt to censor teachers, school boards, and curriculum directors, and stymie student questions about the role of race and the impact of racism in U.S. history. It seeks to prohibit public schools or public-school academies in Michigan from teaching critical race theory or the 1619 Project, and extort their funding by tying 5% of their School Aid Fund allocation to the prohibition of teaching these or similar topics.
“It is appalling that this legislature is even entertaining this shortsighted, inappropriate, and corrupt bill,” Sen. Geiss said. “If this legislation gets support and full passage from the Legislature, the ability of Michigan students to pass standardized tests or college entrance exams that touch upon American history or social studies would be in detriment. Furthermore, this bill will have a profoundly chilling effect on education, our ability to foster talent development, and career readiness for today’s Michigan youth, which would ultimately — and negatively — impact the state’s economic future.”
SB 460 is modeled after similar legislation introduced or passed in 27 other states since August and is aimed toward erasing the history and lived experiences of marginalized communities. It would prevent students from having an open and equitable dialogue that acknowledges the role of racism in U.S. history and includes the experiences and viewpoints of people of color and other marginalized communities. Furthermore, if passed, SB 460 would violate the First Amendment rights of both students and educators that protects the sharing of ideas and the ability to receive information and knowledge.
“Instead of encouraging learning, SB 460 effectively gags educators and students from talking about issues of the most profound national importance, such as the impact of systemic racism in our society,” Sen. Geiss continued. “We must be able to acknowledge and reckon with this country’s history of systemic racism — which includes being able to teach and have age-appropriate discussions about these concepts in our schools — without teachers having to worry about keeping their jobs or school districts fearful of losing their funding.”