HARTFORD, CT — A bill that mandates that African-American and Latino and Puerto Rican studies be included in public school curriculums passed the House by a 122 to 24 vote Wednesday.
The bill, which combined individual bills on African-American and Latino and Puerto Rican studies, now heads to the Senate.
During public hearings on both bills in front of the Education Committee earlier this year large groups of students came to the state Capitol to urge legislators to back the legislation. Hundreds of written pieces of testimony from students, teachers, education advocates, and others in support were also submitted.
The bill adds African-American and Latino studies to the required courses of study for public schools and requires all local and regional boards of education to include this topic in their curriculum beginning with the 2019-20 school year.
It also makes African-American and Latino studies a one-credit requirement for high school graduation, starting with the graduating class of 2023 (the current 8th grade class).
The bill further requires the state Department of Education, by July 1, 2020, to develop the curriculum for a one-credit course in African-American and Latino studies that will count as one credit for high school graduation.
The state Board of Education is also required, by July 1, 2020, to develop and adopt a model curriculum for grades kindergarten through eight that is in accordance with the required program of instruction for all schools and includes African-American and Latino studies within and among various subject matter areas.
Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, who called himself a “proud Puerto Rican,” said too often people believe studies of African-American and Latino issues should be confined to large cities.
Reyes said a “big benefit” of the bill is the mandate of studies in all Connecticut communities regardless of size or racial make-up.
Rep. Robert Sanchez, D-New Britain, chair of the Education Committee, said the original hope was to develop a multi-million dollar “model curriculum” on African-American and Latino and Puerto Rican studies, but the final bill in front of the House was scaled way back due to the fiscal issues facing local school boards.
But even though the costs may be minimal it is still a mandate that some representatives said they could not pass on to their home districts at a time when those districts are struggling with finding the funds to meet other state mandates while state dollars to communities, in some cases, are shrinking.