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Bill moving thru legislature could limit what teachers teach

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Posted at 7:34 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 00:30:17-04

PHOENIX — The State Senate will take up a bill next week which prohibits public and charter schools from requiring teachers to engage students in controversial issues of public policy or social affairs. The topics must be essential to a course’s learning objectives.

Under the law, teachers face a $5,000 penalty if they allow classroom discussions on controversial topics or if they don’t give equal weight to divisive topics like slavery or even the Arizona election audit.

“I honestly do not know how I would teach it and its history happening down the street,” said Arizona Education Association Vice President Marisol Garcia.

Garcia has taught 8th-grade social studies in Arizona Public Schools for 14 years. Elections are part of her curriculum.

“At every single point. I could be put in trouble by a parent who disagrees with either side of what is being brought into the classroom,” Garcia said.

RELATED: AZ still dealing with one of worst student-teacher ratios in U.S.

SB1532 is like many popping up across the country aimed at forbidding the teaching of critical race theory in the classroom. The bill’s language is almost identical to ones in Idaho and Texas.

But on Wednesday State Representative Michelle Udall (R) Mesa-District 25 added an amendment which states, “If a teacher chooses to discuss controversial issues of public policy or social affairs, the teacher, to the best of the teacher’s ability, shall present these issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

Udall says, “as teachers, we should be able to lead discussions related to my course topic without students knowing my personal political leanings. Good teachers lead with facts and then allow students to draw their own conclusions.”

Udall, who is a teacher, believes too many teachers are teaching what to think, not how to think.

Marisol Garcia disagrees.

“It’s just not happening. I have never worked with a teacher who thought I’m going to use this position to harm children and change their thinking. Go against what their parents want. If anything, as teachers we want to work with parents so they are successful, period.”

During the debate, Democrats argued the language of Udall’s amendment was too vague. Is it controversial to say “Donald Trump lost the election” or “climate change is real” for instance?

What are the ramifications for teachers, schools and districts who teach the facts, just not the facts of some?

“We don’t want to be punishing, be punitive with teachers. We want to reward teachers,” Governor Doug Ducey said Thursday. “But we also want to have the proper lessons learned and taught inside our classrooms.”