House omnibus education bill passes, divisive policies one step closer to being classroom requirement
The Minnesota House passed along party lines H.F. 2497, the 327-page omnibus education finance bill. The Senate recommended it for passage this morning, and a Monday vote is expected.
The Democrat bill brings sweeping changes to K-12 education, very little which is positive (which I will cover in another post). Most of the new mandates and policies are largely based on critical social justice ideology, whose core features include a socialist concentration on inequality, hierarchy, and power, primacy of race, gender and sexual inequalities over material or psychological inequalities, and a focus on unmeasurable and unfalsifiable structures of oppression, to name a few.
H.F. 2497’s proposed terms and definitions express these ideologies.
“Ethnic studies” means the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity with a focus on the experiences and perspectives of people of color within and beyond the United States. the experiences and perspectives of people of color within and beyond the United States. Ethnic studies analyzes the ways in which race and racism have been and continue to be powerful social, cultural, and political forces, and the connection of race to the stratification of other groups, including stratification based on gender, class, disability, sexuality, religion, and legal status.
Rep. Peggy Bennett offered an amendment to H.F. 2497 to remove the ethnic studies provisions, and although it failed, the roll call vote on her amendment shows the legislators who recognize the highly divisive nature of this content.
The omnibus bill adds ethnic studies (as defined above) as a fifth strand to the social studies definition. It also requires the embedding of ethnic studies into related academic standards.
As I shared on a recent Education America show, the Minnesota Department of Education’s Social Studies Standards Committee added ethnic studies to the state’s K-12 social studies standards when it completed revising them back in 2021. Those standards are making their way through statutory rulemaking, where an administrative law judge (ALJ) will review them before approval. Under H.F. 2497, the education commissioner must use the expedited rulemaking process to adopt the ethnic studies standards.
In my opinion, H.F. 2497’s addition of ethnic studies to the social studies definition is legislators playing catch-up to what the Minnesota Department of Education has already done, and eliminating a potential reason for the ALJ to disapprove the revised standards.
Additional ethnic studies provisions in H.F. 2497 include:
- School boards will have to “assess ethnic studies curriculum needs to determine priorities for integrating ethnic studies into existing courses or developing new courses.”
- District and charter schools will have to offer a high school ethnic studies course.
- Ethnic studies instruction will be required in elementary and middle schools.
- District and charter schools will have to conduct an ethnic studies school needs assessment.
Even after all American Experiment has written on this “critical” or “liberated” version of ethnic studies, if you still think it is just about teaching the value, histories, and cultures of the multitude of ethnic groups who have helped shape our state and country — which virtually everyone agrees is important — you have some more reading to do.
“Antiracist” means actively working to identify and eliminate racism in all forms so that power and resources are redistributed and shared equitably among racial groups.
“Culturally sustaining” means integrating content and practices that infuse the culture and languages of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities who have been and continue to be harmed and erased through schooling.
“Institutional racism” means structures, policies, and practices within and across institutions that produce outcomes that chronically favor white people and disadvantage those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
H.F. 2497 also puts into state law foundationally adversarial terms and definitions that embody critical social justice, including “antiracist,” “culturally sustaining,” and “institutional racism.”
As my colleague Kathy Kersten details out here, the antiracism definition buried in this bill does not have its common-sense meaning, but instead injects reductive, racialized thinking into every public school classroom. All instruction, technology, and curriculum used in our state’s K-12 public schools will be required to be “antiracist.”
District implementation of these new mandates will take money. H.F. 2497 adds another big increase to education spending, but the full costs of these provisions are not fully known, leaving school district leaders concerned. As the Pioneer Press reported:
“A lot of folks had high hopes that with the united government in place, we’d get some things done at the Legislature this year,” Stillwater Superintendent Michael Funk told his board late last month as the Legislature’s omnibus education bills were being published. “Unfortunately, I think this is potentially one of the most damaging sessions I’ve seen since I’ve been a superintendent.”
Teacher licensure barriers
Outside of the divisive changes, I also wanted to note that H.F. 2497 includes several provisions that prevent aspiring teachers from entering the classroom through alternative pathways and that risk exacerbating the teacher shortage.
Bottom line: Minnesota K-12 public education is one step closer to being the vehicle for a race-and-class warfare view of society.