Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond
State Board President
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Room 5111
Sacramento, CA 95814
We are a coalition of 88 organizations with hundreds of thousands of members and supporters, many of them residents of California. We are keenly aware of the enormous challenges currently facing the state’s educational system, and we are deeply grateful for all that the State Board of Education is doing to ensure the continuity and quality of education for California’s K-12 students.
Most of our organizations wrote to the California Department of Education (CDE) last summer to express our serious concerns about the politically-charged nature of the AB 2016-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, which sought to indoctrinate students into a highly controversial and divisive set of ideological beliefs that we feared would exacerbate ethnic divisions and foment bigotry in California schools. Especially now, as our country and state grapple with ways to come together to address unacceptable inequality and injustice and unite against hate and bigotry, it is more important than ever that our state’s first high school ethnic studies curriculum provides an opportunity to help students understand the difficult challenges facing our communities and promotes mutual respect, civility and unity.
Sadly, the initial draft curriculum failed on all of those fronts, and we greatly appreciate that you publicly acknowledged the draft’s inadequacies last summer. In response to the outpouring of criticism about the initial draft from more than 19,000 California citizens and organizations, state legislators and the Governor, you immediately reassured Californians, stating, “A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all. The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.” You also announced a comprehensive revision process and designated officials to begin working on a new draft model curriculum, which we understand will be available for public comment in the fall. We eagerly await those revisions.
We have learned, however, of an on-going deceptive campaign by former members of the original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Advisory Committee (ESMCAC) to circumvent the legislatively-prescribed revision process and ensure that the first draft, which ESMCAC members helped develop, will be implemented in California schools with as little oversight as possible. Over the past few months, these individuals, who call themselves “Save CA Ethnic Studies,” have attempted to take advantage of state and local education officials’ focus on addressing the COVID-19 crisis to get school boards throughout the state to rubber-stamp, with little or no discussion, a resolution that “affirms support of the California Ethnic Studies Model Draft” and “support[s] the work of the Save CA Ethnic Studies Coalition”. In addition, the more recent version of the resolution has school boards committing “to move forward a plan and timeline” to train high school teachers in the model curriculum, as well as to “adapt the curriculum for middle school and elementary school grades.”
School board members asked to vote on the resolution are not shown the original draft curriculum, and not informed about the enormous outpouring of criticism it engendered or that a CDE process is well underway for the curriculum’s redesign. Instead, board members are led to believe that in voting for the resolution they are showing support for AB 2016 and affirming the importance of ethnic studies classes in general, rather than endorsing the highly controversial draft curriculum that was condemned by dozens of state leaders and tens of thousands of Californians. As a result of this organized campaign, several school boards have already approved the disingenuous resolution, with more expected in the future.
The Save CA Ethnic Studies campaign has promulgated a plethora of misinformation and sown a great deal of confusion among school board members and school district residents. We therefore urge you to issue an official statement pointing out the misguided and premature nature of these resolutions and urging district school board members to wait until the state’s revision process is completed before affirming support for the high school ethnic studies model curriculum or considering whether and how to implement it in their district.
Thank you, now more than ever, for your leadership during this challenging time.