Minus its ‘American exceptionalism’ language, bill requiring lessons on ‘founding principles’ passes Louisiana House

Louisiana House of Representatives members vote on a bill. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

CORRECTION:  A previous version of this story incorrectly identified one of the Republicans who voted against the legislation.

A bill that mandates that Louisiana’s public K-8 schools teach students “the founding principles of the U.S.”– including the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers — passed in the Louisiana House of Representatives by a 69-35 vote.

Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs), author of HB 352, said that “The U.S. has always been the strongest when its people come together and embrace those principles that unite us.”

“It’s our job to make sure that future generations of kids in America have a deeper understanding of the sacrifices it took to establish and preserve this great country,” Hodges said from the floor in support of her bill.

Originally, the bill mandated that schools teach about “American exceptionalism” and “globalism” and promote “the benefits of capitalism, private property, constitutional liberties, the value of a constitutional republic and traditional standards of moral values,” but an amendment introduced by Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge) removed that language from the legislation.

Rep. Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) said he opposed HB 352 because he “doesn’t believe” public school curriculums should have mandates from the Legislature.

Most Republicans voted for the bill except for House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzalez Barbara Freiberg of Baton Rouge. Both independents in the House voted against it and so did all but three Democrats: Francis Thompson of Delhi, Melinda White of Bogalusa and Kyle Green of Marrero.

The bill was highly contested when it was introduced to House Education May 12, especially because a failed amendment that would prevent schools from using textbooks or other learning materials that “provide that a particular sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to another” was accused of being essentially the same idea Ray Garofalo (R-Chalmette) had about not teaching about systemic racism and sexism but “in disguise.”

Garofalo’s bill would have banned lessons that assert that the U.S. or the state “is fundamentally, institutionally, or systemically racist or sexist” and caused weeks-long political tension between Black and White lawmakers in the House that resulted in Garofalo’s eventual removal as chair of the committee.

The bill moves to the Senate for introduction.