Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes bill regarding ethnic studies as high school graduation requirement

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Ethnic studies will still not be a high school graduation requirement in up to 11 California school districts because of Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto AB 2772.

AB 2772 proposed a three-year pilot program formulated by Assemblymembers Jose Medina, D-Riverside, Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which would mandate a semester- or yearlong ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement during the 2020-2023 school years.

Assemblymember Medina, a former ethnic studies teacher, said in a statement via email that he is disappointed in Brown’s decision.

“The history taught in our classrooms is not inclusive of the diversity that makes up California and that needs to change,” Medina said in his statement. “As a former Ethnic Studies teacher, I’ve seen first-hand the excitement and increased level of engagement students experience when they personally connect to the coursework. Ethnic Studies is a powerful mechanism that helps broaden the understanding of backgrounds and cultures different from our own.”

Spencer Pritchard, a Black history teacher at Berkeley High School, said he thinks students are interested in the history and culture that ethnic studies courses provide.

“Schools are very Eurocentric, and it’s important to create something different from that to include all students,” Pritchard said. “It helps you articulate your history, and for me, it made me have more of a stake in my education because it inspired me and helped me better understand who I was.“

In his veto statement, Gov. Brown said some school districts can and already do require ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. He added that he felt reluctant to implement another requirement in fear of “overburdening” high school students.

Pritchard said he feels that students are more overburdened by state-mandated A-G requirements that prioritize other subjects over a broader historical narrative, such as ethnic studies.

Through AB 2772, the governing boards of 11 school districts throughout California would have applied for grant funding from the state Department of Education to implement a semester- or yearlong ethnic studies course.

The bill would have also required the department to award supporting grants to bolster professional development and technical assistance in the new programs. Such grants would also have been subject to a later report by the end of the pilot program in 2024, including information surrounding best practices and recommendations for the integration of an ethnic studies course into the state’s graduation requirements.

Medina said in his statement that he will continue to increase accessibility to an ethnic studies education via legislation.

“There’s so much evidence it will greatly enhance education of students of color, who are directly impacted,” Pritchard said. “I think if you include this, you’ll further enrich outcomes and have the ability to be less segregated as a society as a whole.”

Contact Alexa VanHooser at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalexa.