The House gave final passage to a bill that requires the state Education Department to come up with a curriculum on labor history and the role of capitalism in America and world economies.
The bill passed the House on an 84-61 vote with three Democrats voting against and four Republicans voting in favor. The bill passed the Senate on May 6 and is now headed to the governor’s desk.
The legislation has been touted for several years by Senate President Martin Looney.
“Without the contribution of organized labor and the sacrifice and courage of union activists, the average worker, even the average non-union worker, would have many fewer rights and benefits in employment,” Looney said Monday. “We owe it to the children of Connecticut to teach them about these extraordinary contributions so that they might have an understanding of this critical component in American history.”
This is the first time the bill has made it through both chambers.
There was concern among some lawmakers, during Monday’s House debate, that the effort was meaningless since as of February the state Education Department modified its social studies curriculum to include the topic of labor history and capitalism. There also was concern about the need for additional curriculum.
Rep. Richard Smith, R-New Milford, said the school day is already full and there’s no more time in the day for this additional curriculum.
“Our teachers do not have the time to teach what they’re supposed to teach because we keep requiring and dictating to them what they have to teach,” Smith said. “This adds one more component.”
He said if teachers came to the legislature in large numbers to lobby for the passage of the legislation, then he would reconsider his support. However, he said that’s not what happened.
“Those who are in the field did not come forward with that information,” Smith said.
Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, who co-chairs the Education Committee, said both teacher unions testified in support of the legislation and those are the organizations that represent teachers.
“They did so because they think it’s a valuable measure,” Fleischmann said.
Smith described the legislation as “a union driven bill.” He said the bill “is not educational.”
Rep. Ed Vargas, D-Hartford, said there is a need for this legislation because traditionally history has been taught from the point of view of the kings, queens, presidents, and captains of industry.
“We hear about Henry Ford, David Rockefeller, the Vanderbilts . . . and sometimes students would get the idea that history is driven by a few people in leadership positions,” Vargas, a former teacher, said.
He said some of the concerns of those who oppose the legislation may be a little overstated.