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Missouri bill would ban critical race theory in schools and offer teacher training in ‘patriotism’

Missouri lawmakers are considering new legislation aimed at prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory in its public grade schools. (Photo: Galen Bacharier/Springfield News/USA Today Network)

(CNN) — Missouri lawmakers are considering new legislation aimed at prohibiting the teaching of so-called critical race theory in its public grade schools — even though the state’s largest teachers’ union says the concept is not presently a part of schools’ curricula — and requiring the state to develop a training program to teach American patriotism.

Critical race theory is a concept, usually taught in college, that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the United States, specifically whether racism is systemic and continues to be pervasive throughout American society. Although CRT is generally not part of public grade school curricula, proponents and opponents of CRT disagree on the extent to which its tenets are spread in American public schools, and it’s become a widely politicized issue.

The proposed bill in the state Senate would prohibit teachers from teaching that “individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior and that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by others.”

Specifically, “No school shall offer a course on critical race theory in kindergarten through 12th grade.”

The legislation also calls on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a training program to “prepare teachers to teach the principles of American civics and patriotism.” Teachers who complete the training would receive a one-time bonus of $3,000.

If passed, the bill would create a “Bill of Rights” for parents that would allow them access to their child’s school curriculum including reading materials. It would prohibit a school from requiring a nondisclosure agreement for a parent to review curricula and existing criminal charges against a teacher or school employee.

Both Missouri’s state House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.

Spokesmen for the state’s largest teachers’ unions condemned the proposed legislation.

“If you were to look at curriculum for Missouri schools, you would not see any mention of critical race theory,” Todd Fuller, a spokesperson for the Missouri State Teachers Association, told CNN. “CRT debate takes away from the real issue Missouri is facing: how do we keep and retain quality teachers? If we don’t have teachers to teach, curriculum will be the least of our problems.”

Mark Jones, a spokesman for Missouri’s affiliate of the National Education Association, said the bill would deny students access to essential learning.

“We want students to understand the complete history of our country, good and bad, so they can learn from the past to solve today’s problems,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, politicians who oppose students’ freedom to learn a true telling of American history are pushing these ideas to cover up for their failures to support students, teachers, and our local neighborhood schools.”

CNN has reached out to Republican state Sen. Andrew Koenig, the bill’s sponsor, for comment.

The proposed legislation is among a series of nationwide moves, pushed largely by Republicans, in recent years to curtail or shape public school instructions about race.

Since January 2021, 42 states have introduced bills or taken other steps aiming to place restrictions on how issues of race and sexism are taught, and 18 states have imposed such limits, according to an Education Week analysis.

This week, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration blocked a new African American Advanced Placement course for high school students, saying the course is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

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