By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The Republican-led Legislature on Tuesday passed bills aimed at checking the spread of radical education in Wisconsin’s public schools and bringing more transparency to curriculum.
But the day on the floor began with the Senate confirming four of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet appointees despite lingering concerns by some Republican senators.
The Assembly bills, which passed on a party-line vote, effectively bar critical race theory (CRT) and other race- and gender-centric curriculum from public schools, as well as such training of government employees.
Democrats say the bills are nothing more than the state meddling in local affairs. They see nothing wrong with lesson plans that teach that the United States is inherently racist and that white people are natural-born white supremacists.
Christopher Rufo, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has done extensive research into critical race theory, its origins and its proliferation. In testimony last week, Rufo defined CRT as a false academic discipline that maintains the United States was founded on white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalist exploitation and that those forces are still at the root of our society.
“CRT is deeply sceptical about the concept of individual rights and constitutional government and favors dividing society into oppressor and oppressed categories based on race and then advocating for the overturning of some of the key social, economic and governing institutions of our country,” Rufo said.
School districts that push CRT and other forms of radical curriculum could lose 10 percent of their state funding.
Rep. Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser) co-authored Assembly Bill 414, ensuring “racist and sexist ideas such as Critical Race Theory are not pushed on state employees.”
“Lately, we’ve seen a push from the left to teach divisive topics that stereotype people based on their skin color. My bill simply prevents Governor Evers’ racist and sexist training such as Critical Race Theory from being forced onto our exceptional public employees,” Magnafici said.
Meanwhile, both the Assembly and Senate passed curriculum transparency bills that will give parents more information about what their children are being taught.
A bill authored by Sens. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Alberta Darling (River Hills) requires school districts to post course information including bibliographic information, copies of course content created by staff, syllabi, outlines, handouts, and links to adopted curricula to the school district website.
“There is a growing concern in our nation about what is being taught in taxpayer-funded schools,” Darling said, “This bill will make it easier for parents, taxpayers and concerned citizens to see what our schools are teaching,”
Magnafici’s bill requiring school districts provide clearer, more accessible budget information to the public also passed on a party-line vote.
And the Assembly passed a civics bill.
The legislation requires the teaching of shared rights and responsibilities as citizens of the U.S., how to engage in government at the local, state, and federal levels, and the history and content of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.
Wisconsin received an “F” in both civics and U.S. History in the Fordham Institute’s 2021 report on the State of State Standards. The report criticized Wisconsin’s lack of guidance that the state’s standards provide for educators.
“The basic understanding of how the U.S. government operates is severely lacking among students and adults,” Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said. “We need to do a better job of informing our citizens of the vital role we all play in our government to encourage civic pride and the desire to participate in government at all levels.”
It’s highly likely Evers will veto the curriculum bills because that’s what the Democrat’s radical left base demands.
The Senate confirmed four of Evers’ secretary designees, including two of his more controversial appointees. Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary Missy Hughes received unanimous approval.
Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim was confirmed 29-2, with Sens. Steve Nass and Julian Bradley voting against. Four senators voted against Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson’s confirmation — Nass, Bradley, Senate President Chris Kapenga and Stroebel.