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Louisiana House panel shuts down bills related to critical race theory

The bills, House Bill 1014 and House Bill 747, were both authored by Rep. Raymond Garofalo, R-Chalmette. The bills tackled what many would call critical race theory.

BATON ROUGE, La. — The House Education Committee on Tuesday killed two bills by a conservative lawmaker that would have prohibited teaching concepts related to race, ethnicity, national origin and sex. 

The committee voted unanimously to involuntarily defer the bills after much debate over whether or not the Legislature should set school curricula. 

The bills, House Bill 1014 and House Bill 747, were both authored by Rep. Raymond Garofalo, R-Chalmette. The bills tackled what many would call critical race theory. 

“Our classrooms are set up so that students can get the basic skills that they need: reading, writing, arithmetic, history, accurate history,” Garofalo said. “They are not setup so that we can indoctrinate our students into a political way of thinking.”  .

Critical race theory, as described by the NAACP, is “an academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society.”  The two bills attempted to dissolve critical race theory within the schools from different sides.

HB 1014 would have prohibited many concepts related to race, ethnicity, and national origin, including whether any race is inherently superior or inferior, from being in the K-12 curriculum. 

The bill also would have prohibited any teaching about whether the U.S. is a systematically racist country. 

During 1 ½ hours of debate, multiple representatives questioned whether indoctrination was an actual issue. 

Both Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, and Rep. Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport, said they have not had any indication from their constituents of this being a concern. 

Several people came forward in opposition to the bill, including a couple of teachers. They argued that the prohibitions would limit the ability of teachers to do their jobs. 

Jacob Newsom, a public high school teacher, decided to testify about this at the last minute. 

“My students take a college board test,” Newsom said. “They are 10th grade students now, and they’re gonna sit there and take a college test and they’re not gonna have all the facts? Ain’t no way they’re gonna pass it. Ain’t no way I’m gonna hogtie my students and limit their possibilities either.”

Supporters of the bill claimed its purpose was to stop teachers from forcing their ideas onto students. 

But many representatives agreed that the bill was over-reaching and believed that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should decide the curriculum. 

HB 747 was similar to HB 1014, except that it only prohibited certain teaching materials and required the teaching of the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. 

Davante Lewis of the Louisiana Budget Project opposed the bill. 

“We keep talking about indoctrination, and I think there is an indoctrination going on,” Lewis said.  “And it is an indoctrination erasing what Black and brown people actually faced in this country. I think the indoctrination is about centering whiteness as the center piece of what education should be and not from the eyes or the perspective of Black and brown people.” 

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voiced their own opposition to the bills but stated that the board itself was neutral on them. 

That concerned Jefferson, who said that these were pivotal pieces of legislation that the board on which chose to not take a position. 

This is not the first time Garofalo tried to pass legislation prohibiting the “inherently superior or inferior” teachings of race in schools. In 2021, Garofalo introduced a similar bill to the ones that failed Tuesday. 

Last year’s bill also failed, and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder removed Garofalo as chairman of the House Education Committee amid a furor over a comment by Garofalo that “you can talk about everything dealing with slavery, the good, the bad, the ugly."

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