Arizona Lawmakers at Odds Over Critical Race Theory Ban

By Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.
July 6, 2021 Updated: July 7, 2021

Arizona legislators shared opposing views on July 5 regarding legislation in the newly signed state budget that prohibits the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools and workplaces.

Some see the measure as a positive step, while others see it as a setback.

“I think it is really unfortunate. It really is a false narrative that they are pushing with this demonization of critical race theory,” state Sen. Martin Quezada said.

The prohibition on teaching CRT in Arizona’s public schools is included in the Republican governor’s spending plan, which earmarks $6.2 billion for K–12 education.

The ban, which carries potential fines and the possible loss of teaching licenses, targets “instruction that inherently discriminates against one particular race over past historical injustices.”

Quezada, a Democrat, said that none of this is currently being taught in Arizona public schools.

“They’re confusing a lot of other issues with CRT, such as equity and justice. It does our kids a real disservice to try and ban that type of discussion in our schools,” he said. “It’s definitely a national trend, and it’s being pushed by a radical wing of the conservative party.”

In recent months, Arizona Republicans have joined a growing national conservative backlash against CRT. Critics of the doctrine argue that it infers that one race is inherently racist and should be discriminated against or feel guilty because of their race.

In a May 10 joint letter to the Biden Administration, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich signed on with attorneys general from 19 other states to express “deep concerns” about proposed priorities issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

“The proposed priorities are a thinly veiled attempt at bringing into our states’ classrooms the deeply flawed and controversial teachings of Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project,” the letter stated.

Epoch Times Photo
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in an undated photo provided on June 10, 2021. (Mark Brnovich)

The letter defined CRT as an “ideological construct that analyzes and interprets American history and government primarily through the narrow prism of race [and class conflict]. Similarly, the 1619 Project seeks to reframe the country’s history.”

“Though the Department does not overtly refer to CRT in its priorities, it is prioritizing teaching this highly controversial ideology through the vehicle of [a] grant program,” the letter reads. “Its theories posit that our nation’s values, ideals, foundations, and institutions—the things Congress intended to promote—instead produce ‘inequity’ demanding actions to modify this result.”

The National Education Association—the largest teachers union in the country—said it will resist those opposed to teaching CRT in schools and doubled down on its support for the 1619 Project.

At its recent annual meeting, the NEA adopted New Business Item 39, which defends the teaching of CRT in schools as “reasonable and appropriate.”

“It is reasonable and appropriate for the curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks for understanding and interpreting the impact of the past on current society, including critical race theory,” the item stated.

Two Arizona Senate bills—one of which was vetoed by the governor, the other of which failed in the Senate—sought to address CRT teachings in the workplace and in schools as being incompatible with American ideals and values.

State Rep. Judy Burges, a Republican, said a bill she supported included her amendment, which would have required in civics lessons a “comparative discussion” of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that “conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”

Burges said the Senate version of the measure “died” on the floor during the last legislative session prior to the governor signing the budget.

“We need to elect a Superintendent of Public Instruction that will implement the requirements as outlined under statute. The requirement to teach the dangers of communism is [in the law] already,” Burgess said.

“If they continue to ignore the law, [there’s] the possibility of legislative hearings, Attorney General involvement, or last-resort withholding revenues until [there’s] compliance. Maybe we need a full investigation of how CRT and social justice already found their way into the classroom.”

Arizona Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Republican, told The Epoch Times that it’s important to teach children about race using a “wide-angle lens” and “not minimizing the unsavory parts of our past.”

“However, included in critical race theory are the concepts that by the very nature of having white skin a person is inherently racist, either consciously or unconsciously. It further teaches that current individuals are responsible for the actions of generations long since passed, and therefore ought to bear the consequence of their ancestors’ transgressions. These concepts are racist at their very core and only perpetuate the racial divide that has crept into our society,” Townsend said.

“Our cultures will not heal by using this attempt to ‘pay back the white man’ of today for the transgressions of yesterday. I am glad Arizona has taken a strong stand against this racism in our schools. It has no place in our state.”

Kathy Hoffman, the Arizona superintendent of public instruction, didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Scot Mussi, president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a nonprofit economic and political watchdog group, said the state budget legislation banning CRT in schools is a “first step to start rooting that out in the classroom.”

“We do think that further measures will be needed as this issue continues to play out in our schools. It’s an issue we’re going to watch very closely. It is being taught [in schools]. Often they try to disguise it with what is being taught,” Mussi said.

Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.