A bill from State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) aimed at preventing Critical Race Theory (CRT) from being taught in state classrooms made its way to Governor Katie Hobbs’s desk Monday. However, Josslyn Berry, a spokesperson for Hobbs, told The Arizona Sun Times that is likely as far as the bill would get.
“I can confirm we’ll be vetoing this one [Senate Bill (SB) 1305],” Berry said via email.
In response, Mesnard said he was disappointed with Hobbs’s decision.
“That’s very disappointing. The concepts prohibited in the bill should be abhorrent to all, including Governor Hobbs,” Mesnard said in a statement emailed to The Sun Times.
In a separate statement released Monday, Mesnard called for Hobbs to sign the bill, which he stated was “commonsense legislation.”
CRT centers around the ideology that racism is systemically embedded in America through policies and systems that put people of color at a disadvantage while helping white people. The Arizona Senate Majority Caucus described CRT as a “radical, leftist would view” that defines everyone as either “privileged” or “marginalized” based on the person’s race. The caucus warned that this ideology is discriminatory and only deepens racial divides in this country by labeling people based on race.
SB 1305 would have eliminated any advocacy in the classroom that one race is superior to another. Specifically, the bill banned any promotion that any person is ethically superior or inferior based on their race, that one particular race should be discriminated against, or that someone is responsible for the actions of previous generations because of their race. Additionally, teachers could not teach that “academic achievement” or “traits such as hard work” are racist.
Moreover, school employees, students, or parents who receive instruction in violation of SB1305 would have been able to file a complaint against the instructor. If a governing board confirmed the complaint was valid, the board then had 30 days to remedy that complaint. If the violation is not corrected within 30 days, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may impose a $5,000 civil penalty fine on a school for each day the issue goes uncorrected.
However, what the bill would not have done is prohibit teachers from discussing historical instances of racial injustice, such as slavery, Indian removal, or Japanese-American internment camps.
“Teaching about historical movements, ideologies or instances of racial hatred and discrimination, including slavery and Jim Crow, are absolutely legitimate and sensible topics of study in the classroom,” said Mesnard. “However, pushing a destructive and racist ideology has no place in our schools.”
The bill passed through the Senate Floor in February, but not without opposition from Democrat legislators. State Sen. Christine Marsh (D-Phoenix) said that while she agrees that teachers should not be promoting overt racism, she took issue with the potential fine the bill would impose. She argued that the fine might scare teachers away from the classroom, further exacerbating the Arizona teacher shortage. State Senator Sally Ann Gonzales (D-Tucson) expressed concern that the bill would have caused teachers to ignore teaching African or Native American history.
However, State Senator John Kavanaugh (R-Fountain Hills) said these arguments were strawmen. He argued the bill in no way stopped a teacher from discussing issues of racism; instead, the teacher was prohibited from advocating any racist ideologies.
Furthermore, this is not the first time Mesnard has tried to ban CRT. In 2022, his bill SB1412 would have done the same thing, but it ultimately died in the chamber.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “J.D. Mesnard” by The Arizona Senate Republican Caucus. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.