Photo Credit: Presidio of Monterey
Language Day 2011

As the California Assembly Committee on Appropriations prepares to hold its first hearing on AB 101, a bill to make ethnic studies courses a high school graduation requirement, key California organizations call on Appropriations members to oppose the bill.

“As you are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for a catastrophic loss of instruction for millions of K-12 students in the state,” wrote the organizations in the letter coordinated by AMCHA Initiative. “However, instead of directing essential monies to help students recover from these devastating educational losses in foundational subjects such as Math, Science, and English, AB 101 will divert an enormous amount of taxpayer funds into courses that have not been shown to benefit students academically, and may even harm them.”

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A Stanford University study found that during the early stages of the pandemic, children lost an average of 116 days of reading time and 215 days of math work and that recovery from these losses could take years and require a massive infusion of state funds. This analysis examined March – June 2020 and does not account for an additional year of virtual school in the 2020-2021 academic year.

The seven organizations who sent the letter, AMCHA Initiative, Better Milpitas, California Association of Scholars, Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, San Diego Asian Americans for Equality, Silicon Valley Chinese Association Foundation, and TOC Foundation, estimate that merely based on textbook purchases and teacher salaries, the cost of implementing AB 101 would be a minimum of $200 million in the first year, $664 million over five years and $1.32 billion over ten years. The groups’ projections were based on an estimated budget for the first four years of rolling out an ethnic studies graduation requirement in every high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which was approved by the district’s Director of Budget Services and Financial Planning in 2015.

“Although advocates for AB 101 and its precursor, AB 331, have claimed that courses in ethnic studies have positive academic benefits for students, a comprehensive analysis of the research cited in support of these claims by more than 100 university scholars and academics with decades of experience designing and carrying out empirical research, found the claims to be wholly unsubstantiated,” noted the organizations.

“Moreover, if AB 101 becomes law, the curricula most likely to form the basis for the required course — whether it is the recently approved AB 2016-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum or one of the alternative curricula being vigorously promoted by educator-activists throughout the state — are firmly rooted in the highly politicized and controversial version of the discipline known as Critical Ethnic Studies, that many Californians believe is extremely divisive, will promote hatred and bigotry in CA classrooms, and is wholly inappropriate for K-12 students,” added the organizations.

Last month, the California State Board of Education approved the final draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, with officials publicly affirming that the curriculum is rooted in Critical Ethnic Studies. Unlike the broader field of ethnic studies, Critical Ethnic Studies is a narrow conceptualization which has been shown to be deeply divisive, political, and anti-Semitic. AB 101 recommends that courses based on this curriculum serve as the basis for the high school graduation requirement. However, AB 101 leaves the decision of which curriculum high schools will adopt up to individual school districts, even allowing them to teach the highly controversial and rejected the first draft of the curriculum, whose overt anti-Semitic content outraged state legislators, the Governor and the Jewish community, eliciting nearly 20,000 letters from concerned citizens.

“In light of the pandemic’s drastic reversal of students’ academic achievement, it is irresponsible and unethical to pass a bill requiring all students to take a course that is likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year, has not been shown to improve students’ academic achievement, and may, in fact, add to their trauma,” concluded the organizations in their letter.

AMCHA Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin testified earlier this month before the California Assembly Education Committee in opposition to AB 101, and AMCHA submitted a formal and comprehensive position letter to the Committee. The letter details how and why a curriculum rooted in Critical Ethnic Studies can easily become a vehicle for inciting division and hate, including anti-Semitism. In addition, the position paper notes that a curriculum like this which strongly endorses and encourages a specific highly controversial, one-sided, and extremely coercive political mission directly subverts a school’s educational mission. AMCHA also points out that the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is a stark contrast to what legislators intended when they approved the bill mandating the development of the curriculum, which calls for a non-political, multicultural approach to ethnic studies that would prepare students in one of the most ethnically diverse states in the nation “to be global citizens with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures.”

Rossman-Benjamin was the first to expose how the discipline of Critical Ethnic Studies is deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. And AMCHA has led several coalition efforts to educate officials about the dangers of a curriculum based on Critical Ethnic Studies.

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