Missouri Senate taking up bill to ban 'critical race theory,' but doesn't define what that is
The bill bans schools from teaching some diversity-related concepts, as well as the teaching of courses or units of study on critical race theory. However, that term is not specifically defined in the legislation and no elementary or secondary schools in the state are teaching CRT.
A bill establishing a Parents Bill of Rights as well as banning certain diversity-based curricula will likely be debated on the Missouri Senate floor next week.
A Senate committee voted to advance it on Tuesday. It currently is one of four bills on the Senate calendar awaiting first-round consideration.
The legislation requires school districts to provide information to parents such as curricula and source materials. It also sets up a portal where citizens can view similar materials for all school districts in the state.
Additionally, the bill bans schools from teaching some diversity-related concepts, including “that individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior.”
It also bars the teaching of courses or units of study on critical race theory, though that term is not specifically defined in the legislation and no elementary or secondary schools in the state are teaching CRT.
Any curriculum, instructional materials or units of study that “advocate, affirm as true, or endorse any idea” falling within the concepts listed, would be in violation.
Sponsor Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, said in committee that it is not the bill’s intention to prohibit the teaching of history.
“Nothing in this act prohibits constitutionally protected speech, access to research or study material discussions, or assignment material for educational purposes,” Koenig said.
But Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City, said the bill is a “denial of the history of ethnic people of the United States of America.”
“This is, as my mother and grandmother would say, is placing us back 200 years when Black people couldn't even read,” Washington said. “Now we're preventing all children from reading anything about the history and the fabric of who we are.”
House bills for Senate consideration
On the House side, four bills changing the initiative petition process to make it harder to amend Missouri’s constitution passed a committee on Thursday and now head to the House.
Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the Senate plans to have its own hearing on their batch of bills related to the initiative petition process, but is open to hearing the House bills.
“Sometimes it makes more sense not to have the fight twice. So, if they move faster than us, we'll certainly be willing to take their bill and take it from there,” Rowden said.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, said Republicans should be careful on amending the initiative petition process.
“If they are going to take that process or part of that process away, then [the people are] going to start changing the legislature,” Rizzo said.
Also on the House side, lawmakers spent more than eight hours Tuesday listening to testimony on eight bills targeting the LGBTQ community.
Six of the bills were related to transgender youth, with some barring transgender girls from participating in sports that align with their gender identity and others banning trans youth from accessing gender-affirming healthcare.
Though those bills have yet to leave committee, Rowden said they are still a priority for Senate Republicans, though he did not express support for the two other bills related to drag shows.
“I think we have more important stuff to talk about,” Rowden said.
Rizzo said they still need to wade through those bills, but plan to have lengthy discussions on all of them.
“It's just a travesty on all counts. It really is and I didn't run for office to decide for parents what they can do with their kids,” Rizzo said.
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