Gov. Gavin Newsom Vetoes Controversial Bill Requiring High School Ethnic Studies Course

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 27: California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health on February 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined State health officials to an update to the public about the state's response to the Coronavirus known …
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In a rare split with far-left Democrats in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have codified in law an ethnic studies course requirement for high school graduation in the state, saying the curriculum was not “balanced.”

Critics of the bill said the course went far beyond teaching students about what ethnic groups make up the U.S. population and was, in fact, teaching antisemitism.

The AMCHA Initiative, a California-based pro-Israel, campus group founded in 2012, issued a statement on the Newsom’s action:

We applaud Governor Newsom for keeping politics and anti-Semitism out of an educational curriculum There is an important distinction between the broad and worthy field of ethnic studies, with its goal of understanding and celebrating the contributions of California’s and our nation’s diversity, and the narrow field of “Critical Ethnic Studies” that the developing California curriculum is modeled after. 

The mission of this narrow understanding of ethnic studies is to promote political beliefs and political activism that are antithetical to the educational setting, inherently anti-Semitic and pose a dangerous threat to Jewish students. We commend the Governor for recognizing this important distinction, and we hope that moving forward, the state legislature will take steps to ensure that state approved instructional materials and K-12 classrooms are free from political bias and not used to advance political causes.

At the center of the controversy is the “Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.”

The EdSource website reported on Assembly Bill 331 (AB 331) in August, after it has been revised to address some of the hundreds of complaints recorded in public comments on the proposed legislation:

The extensive revision includes chapters on the background of ethnic studies, guidance to districts on how to teach it and sample lesson plans. Gone from the new draft are a glossary full of jargon and academic language and a section on Arab-American history with references to Israeli oppression of Palestinians. 

In a San Francisco Chronicle report, Democrat California Assemblyman Jose Medina, who carried the bill, said Newsom’s veto amounted to “a failure to push back against the racial rhetoric and bullying of Donald Trump.”

The Chronicle reported Newsom said he vetoed the bill because of “concerns that the draft curriculum was biased.”

AMCHA Initiative monitors 450 college campuses across the U.S. for antisemitic activity and has recorded more than 3,500 antisemitic incidents since 2015, according to its press release that included the group’s statement on AB 331. 

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