Advance Notice: Briefs

Controversial GOP Senate bill banning ‘critical race theory’ passes in committee

By: - October 27, 2021 11:12 am

Sen. Lana Theis, Oct. 26, 2021 | Screenshot

Democratic lawmakers and educators are sounding the alarm about Senate Bill 460, the second GOP bill banning “critical race theory” that will head for a full chamber vote this fall in the Michigan Legislature.

The legislation was reported out of committee Tuesday, and is similar to bills introduced by Republicans in several other states that preemptively ban CRT being taught in K-12 schools. 

CRT is a college-level theory that examines how the lives and daily experiences of racially marginalized people are shaped by policies, essentially examining the systemic effects of white supremacy in America that linger today. It is not taught in Michigan K-12 schools, but has become a big theme in right-wing media. 

Conservative activist who ‘invented’ clash over ‘critical race theory’ leads Senate hearing

SB 460, however, characterizes these teachings as “anti-American and racist theories.”

“Critical race theory threatens Michigan’s K-12 students with a dangerous false narrative about our country and its place in the world,” bill sponsor Senate Education Committee Chair Lana Theis (R-Brighton) said in a statement.

Echoing similar sentiments expressed by lawmakers and teachers about a parallel bill in the state House, state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and the Michigan Education Justice Coalition released statements Tuesday warning that the legislation will have a “chilling effect” in schools.

“It is appalling that this Legislature is even entertaining this shortsighted, inappropriate, and corrupt bill,” said Geiss, who is executive vice chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. “… Instead of encouraging learning, SB 460 effectively gags educators and students from talking about issues of the most profound national importance, such as the impact of systemic racism in our society.”

Geiss added that no one should have to worry about losing their jobs or funding as a result of acknowledging America’s history of systemic racism.

“Senate Bill 460 is nothing more than a tool of the Republican majority to use race to divide Michiganders, send a chilling message to educators that they will be monitored and punished for teaching the truth and tell students across the state that learning the truth about American history is forbidden,” the Michigan Education Justice Coalition said in its statement Tuesday.

“This bill and its companion in the House are politically motivated bills that harken to a dark time in our country’s history when teachers were arrested for teaching evolution.”

Since passing favorably out of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness Tuesday, SB 460 will now head to the full state Senate.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.