by Caitlin Sievers, Arizona Mirror
March 9, 2023
Gov. Katie Hobbs has issued her 16th veto, nixing a bill that would have banned the teaching of critical race theory in Arizona schools.
The measure, Senate Bill 1305, would have prohibited public K-12 schools in Arizona from a wide range of race-related instruction, including that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or ethnicity, is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
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Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who took office in January, ran on a promise that he would get rid of CRT in Arizona classrooms.
Critical race theory is a concept created by legal scholars positing that racism is embedded in the structures of society, and is not simply the result of individual bias. Though generally taught in post-secondary settings, CRT has turned into a catchall term that critics use to describe any sort of teaching about race.
Ending instruction about racism in America has become a plank for the modern Republican Party in Arizona and across the country.
“It is time to stop utilizing students and teachers in culture wars based on fearmongering and unfounded accusations,” Hobbs wrote in a letter explaining the veto. “Bills like SB1305 only serve to divide and antagonize. I urge the Legislature to work with me on the real issues affecting Arizona schools: underfunded classrooms, a growing educator retention crisis, and school buildings in need of repair and replacement.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, expressed his disappointment with Hobbs’ veto.
“I’m deeply disheartened by Governor Hobbs’ choice to condone these discriminatory teachings our kids are being exposed to, by vetoing my bill,” he said in a written statement. “As lawmakers, we are called to protect the vulnerable, including impressionable and innocent kids. Her action today is a slap in the face to parents who came forward with serious concerns about the racism being taught in their children’s classrooms.”
Mesnard also clapped back at Hobbs, saying that Republicans are working on real issues, adding that they had passed a budget and that the Senate had already passed more than 200 bills addressing issues surrounding schools, public safety and health services, among other things.
The bill would also have banned teaching that “academic achievement, meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or were created by members of a particular race or ethnic group to oppress members of another race or ethnic group.”
Through the bill, students, employees and parents would have the option to file a complaint with the school about race-related teaching, and then to elevate that complaint to the State Board of Education or the superintendent of public instruction, if the school failed to take any sort of action regarding the initial complaint.
Schools not in compliance with the law could have faced a $5,000 fine for each violation.
The bill stipulated that it did not stop teaching about “instances of racial hatred or discrimination, including slavery, Indian removal, the Holocaust and Japanese-American internment.”
Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, a Peoria Republican and chair of the House Education Committee, said in a statement that the teaching of CRT, which she said was commonly found in diversity, equity and inclusion programs, was “racially divisive.”
“This sort of ugly, prejudicial ideology presents a distorted and destructive history and worldview that exacerbates racial tension and anxiety within our children and society,” she said in the statement. “Whether it’s promoted in the classroom, or through programs from companies such as Disney, it’s wrong, and it must end.”
SB1305 was approved in the Senate by a vote of 16-12 and in the House by a vote of 31-29, both along party lines.
Republicans in the state legislature tried and failed last year to pass a bill banning CRT in Arizona classrooms. In 2021, a similar law was passed as part of the budget, but the Arizona Supreme Court ruled it and many other provisions were unconstitutionally shoehorned into the annual spending plan.
***UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Sen. J.D. Mesnard and Rep. Beverly Pingerelli.
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