On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill which would make ethnic studies a California High School graduation requirement.
The bill, AB 101, was introduced by Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) passed the State Assembly in a 59-12 vote and out of the State Senate in a 29-8 vote on Sept. 8.
Supported by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond and a coalition of educators, students, and advocates across the state, AB 101 would require high schools to offer ethnic studies courses beginning in the academic year 2025-26 and make the course a graduation requirement commencing in 2029-2030. This gives schools and districts plenty of time to prepare for a smooth implementation and the adoption of this requirement.
“Thank you Governor Newsom for signing AB 101. The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue. Students cannot have a full understanding of the history of our state and nation without the inclusion of the contributions and struggle of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans. I want to acknowledge the countless young people, high school and college students, teachers and professors, who have organized, demonstrated, boycotted classes, and gone on hunger strikes to demand a more equitable and inclusive educational system. The signing of AB 101 today is one-step in the long struggle for equal education for all students.”
He said in September:
“Requiring ethnic studies in high schools is an integral part of cultivating a classroom environment that is accepting of diversity. It is vital for young people to learn about their history, it is also important for them to feel like they can contribute to their communities in positive ways. This bill comes after decades of struggles and countless efforts by students, teachers, and legislators to diversify curriculum in both K-12 and higher education.
The work that went into designing the final version of AB 101 embodies the very purpose of ethnic studies: the coming together of five diverse caucuses to share their stories, empower one another, and to represent the communities they come from.”
According to the Bill:
This bill would add the completion of a one-semester course in ethnic studies, meeting specified requirements, to the graduation requirements commencing with pupils graduating in the 2029–30 school year, including for pupils enrolled in a charter school. The bill would expressly authorize local educational agencies, including charter schools, to require a full-year course in ethnic studies at their discretion. The bill would require local educational agencies, including charter schools, to offer an ethnic studies course commencing with the 2025–26 school year, as specified. The bill would authorize, subject to the course offerings of a local educational agency, including a charter school, a pupil to satisfy the ethnic studies course requirement by completing either (A) a course based on the model curriculum in ethnic studies developed by the commission, (B) an existing ethnic studies course, (C) an ethnic studies course taught as part of a course that has been approved as meeting the A–G requirements of the University of California and the California State University, or (D) a locally developed ethnic studies course approved by the governing board of the school district or the governing body of the charter school. The bill would prohibit a course that does not use ethnic studies content as the primary content through which the subject is taught from being used to satisfy the ethnic studies course requirement. The bill would require a pupil who completes a course described above to also accrue credit for coursework in the subject that the course is offered, including, if applicable, credit towards satisfying a course required for a diploma of graduation from high school. These provisions would become operative only upon an appropriation of funds by the Legislature for these purposes in the annual Budget Act or another statute.
Here is what Medina said back in April after the bill made it out of committee:
AB 101 would add the completion of a course in ethnic studies based on model curriculum or existing ethnic studies course that meets the A-G requirement, starting in the 2025-26 school year, and would require all students to have taken one semester course in ethnic studies for students graduating in 2029-30.
AB 101 would update high school curriculum and make it reflective of California’s diverse population.
“Knowledge of history plays a critical role in shaping who we become. When I was growing up, the history teacher of those who look like me was not represented in the classroom. As a former Ethnic Studies teacher, I saw firsthand how much engaged my students were when they saw themselves reflected in the coursework. In order to build racial justice in this state and country, all of our students need to learn the real history of America – that history includes the diverse experience and perspectives of people of color. I remain committed to ensuring we can make Ethnic Studies a high school graduation requirement,” stated Medina.
The bill was introduced in January by Medina.
“When you see yourself represented in what you are learning, you are more likely to want to learn, to want to read that textbook or that literature book and study how your ancestors have contributed, said Michelle Alas, student, Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, and member of Generation Up.
“Ethnic studies will serve as a preventative measure for further societal inequities and will be the basis of permissive and civically aware mindsets, said Sanya Dhama, student, Santiago High School in Corona, and member of California Association of Student Councils (CASC). “By congregating, increasing cultural competence, and connecting with each member of our diverse community, we will work towards a more unified community and country.”
“As civil unrest and racial tension have risen across the nation, ethnic studies provides hope for fostering understanding and unity,” said Assemblymember Jose Medina. “Requiring ethnic studies to be taught in high schools ensures that our state’s diversity is reflected in our education system. It is vital for students to learn about their history. This empowers students because they see their backgrounds, cultures, and experiences reflected in their studies for the first time. AB 101 is necessary to ensure all students develop a foundational and accurate understanding of United States history. I am re-introducing this bill because we can’t afford to wait any longer. The time is now to ensure ethnic studies for all by making it a high school graduation requirement.”