The House Education Committee killed two bills Tuesday, May 17, 2022, from Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, that would have banned critical race theory from being applied to K-12 lessons. Lawmakers called the bills “unnecessary” and “impossible to enforce.” (Canva image)
The Louisiana House Education Committee rejected two bills Tuesday that would have made it illegal for schools to teach that people of any race or national origin are still affected by racism or oppression, among other topics.
Both authored by Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, House Bill 1014 and House Bill 747 were involuntarily deferred without objection, which means only the committee can decide to bring them back up for consideration. Both supporters and critics of critical race theory on the committee found Garofalo’s legislation “unnecessary” and “impossible to enforce.”
Garofalo, who had previously attempted to outlaw lessons on systemic racism in Louisiana schools, said “it seems like there’s a lot of indoctrination going on” in Louisiana schools. Black students are being taught they’re inferior to white students, and white students are being taught that they should feel guilty, he said.
“We need to do everything that we can to stop that indoctrination and give the students the skills that they need to succeed in life,” Garofalo said.
Garofalo cited anecdotal evidence from his constituents that teachers were applying critical race theory to their lessons. He wouldn’t provide any names, explaining they might face consequences at their respective children’s schools.
Conservative concerns of critical race theory — a framework used to demonstrate how racism has shaped and continues to shape modern society — have swept the country, including the Louisiana Legislature. Lawmakers over the past two regular legislative sessions proposed multiple bills mandating changes to public schools’ social studies curriculum.
Lessons that would have been outlawed in Garofalo’s legislation include that the U.S. is systemically racist, that students of any racial group have an advantage over another, or any teaching that would make students of any racial group feel guilty or inferior. Schools that didn’t follow those prohibitions could be sued or have state funds withheld, according to the bill.
“We’re not going to allow these divisive concepts to be included in classroom discussion,” Garofalo said.
House Bill 1014 would have also not allowed students to “engage in or observe a discussion of any public policy issue.” Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, raised concerns the bill would prevent schools from taking field trips to the State Capitol and watching committee discourse. Garofalo said the bill would not restrict that.
Dr. Belinda Davis was one of two members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who spoke in opposition to Garafalo’s bills. She instructed the committee “to look at what this legislation says, not what Rep. Garofalo says that it does.”
“This legislation literally prohibits discussion about anything and everything that government does,” Davis said. “This bill prohibits (discussion on) government action. We can’t discuss the merits of the New Deal, monetary policy. It’s literally everything.”
Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, a vocal critic of critical race theory in the past, said he didn’t support Garofalo’s legislation, especially because of the state’s new social studies content standards.
“I’m very proud of the content standards,” Owen said. “I think that they do represent the history of racism and the black experience in this country, and I think that they’re a good thing that we have now.”
Owen said he would support surveying Louisiana schools to see what problems parents and teachers have with critical race theory.
“I think it is time to pulse the schools and find out, and not live on anecdotes,” he said.
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