GILLETTE — Grady Hutcherson, president of the Wyoming Education Association, has mixed feelings about the Civics Transparency Act, a bill recently introduced by state Sens. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, to address concerns about critical race theory being taught in Wyoming K-12 classrooms.
The bill would require school districts to publish their curricula on their websites, making it easier for parents to see what their children are learning in school, and also require that students be taught “the principles set forth in the first and second paragraphs and the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence and in article 1, sections 2 and 3 and article 6, section 1 of the Wyoming Constitution,” according to the bill’s current text.
The bill’s provisions basically require teachers to instruct students that Wyoming was the first jurisdiction to provide men and women with the equal right to vote and to hold public office when Wyoming’s first territorial legislature passed the measure in 1869; to teach the history of slavery and race-based discrimination, to include the end of slavery and efforts to end discrimination in accordance with the founding principles of the U.S.; and to teach that it is wrong to be unfair to anyone or treat anyone differently due to their race or ethnicity.
“The Wyoming Education Association supports transparency in education, which is at the core of this proposed legislation,” Hutcherson said in a written statement. “WEA welcomes parents and communities in their right to be collaborative partners in students’ education. However, we do have concerns about the potential unintended consequences this draft legislation could have for education employees, districts, and — most importantly — students. ... Being overly prescriptive by attempting to legislate strict adherence to cataloging all materials used to support lessons is unrealistic and burdensome red tape and takes away quality teaching time with students.”
Jilian Balow, the state superintendent of public instruction, has voiced strong support for the bill and has spoken out publicly about the harms she sees in critical race theory.
In May, Balow issued a statement criticizing the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed priorities for American History and Civics Education grant programs because the priorities include critical race theory curriculum recommendations such as the writings of “divisive author” Ibram X. Kendi and the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
Critical race theory is a framework that seeks to analyze laws and social policies with an eye to the systemic racism that many contend has plagued the U.S. since its founding.