California Considers Requiring Ethnic Studies Course to Graduate High School

graduation cap diploma isolated on a white background

As a teacher in Los Angeles county, Jose Lara has fought for years to have ethnic studies taught in high schools across the state. He’s taught the course for 13 years and says he’s seen his students transform by studying their history—whether learning about Cesar Chavez, who led the farmworkers movement in the ’60s, or about Angel Island, a port of entry near San Francisco that limited Chinese immigration in the early 1900s.

“Ethnic studies helps students develop an academic identity,” he said. “It really builds empathy cross-culturally as well so it brings communities that may be different from one another closer together.”

But skeptics say the state couldn’t afford to require such a course. Some critics go even further, insisting the state shouldn’t reinforce “identity politics” and instead should laser-focus on shrinking the academic achievement gap for black and Latino students.

This week the Legislature—which had been considering a bill to make California the first state to require ethnic studies for high school graduation—backed away from creating such a statewide mandate, citing costs estimated to top $400 million. Sponsors settled on a pilot program instead.

The pilot would cover 10 to 15 school districts across the state that will opt in to have ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Schools would begin applying next year and the program would create the requirement for some students as early as 2022, with schools reporting their findings in 2024.

A state law passed in 2016 already encourages high schools to offer an elective course in ethnic studies, and requires the state to create a model curriculum for the class by 2020. Currently only 1 percent of California’s public high school students take ethnic studies. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters

Los Angeles Will Spend Over $70 Million Implementing ‘Ethnic Studies’ In Schools

Los Angeles plans to implement a district-wide ethnic studies curriculum, but it has run into a massive $70 million road block.

Last fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) took the almost-unprecedented step of requiring every student in the district to pass a course in “ethnic studies” in order to graduate high school. When the school board approved the measure, however, it did so without any clear price tag. An initial estimate suggested the price of implementing the decree would be only $3.4 million.

It turns out that estimate was off by a factor of 20. A recently completed analysis by the district’s Ethnic Studies Committee concluded that the price to implement the new program will be a staggering $72.7 million over four years, with most of the price coming from the need to buy thousands of new textbooks and train instructors in the new curriculum. That’s about $105 for each student in the district.

That’s a hefty chunk of change for a district whose annual budget is about $6.8 billion. LAUSD is already struggling with its finances; its deficit for the 2015-16 school year is expected to be over $150 million.

The huge price tag vindicates those who criticized the district for rushing into adopting the ethnic studies requirement without much study beforehand. Board member Tamar Galatzan, the only person to vote against the proposal, warned in an editorial last November the district was acting without any real research on how the requirement would impact hiring decisions and the financial bottom line.

Activists insisted that ethnic studies was an urgent need for LAUSD and pushed for a quick adoption of the requirement. Board member Steve Zimmer argued that ethnic studies were a pressing need to keep kids in school and on the path towards success.

“In some places, there is resistance , but what we do here today will bring down the walls of resistance,” Zimmer said at the time. “We are losing kids because we are not connecting to their story.”

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation