The Tennessee House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring Black history to be taught in all K-12 public schools in the state.
The bill was passed by a vote of 80-2 on April 7, but it still needs to be approved by the state Senate and the governor.
The bill’s major proponent, the Democratic Rep. Yusuf Hakeem of Chattanooga, claimed it would oblige the state’s schools to teach Black history, which is currently not required. He stated that the bill’s goal is to be “limited, targeted, and particular.” Hakeem is said to have been lobbying for the change for the past two years.
During the House debate on the legislation, Hakeem remarked, “It is critical that students learn about and study Black history at an age where they can assimilate the material.”
If the bill passes, the state board of education will be obliged to examine current social studies textbooks next year and decide which Black history topics to include for students in grades five through eight.
Hakeem wants the board to think about incorporating black history in Tennessee. All K-12 pupils must be exposed to multicultural diversity in their courses, according to the bill. According to the law, the new Black history standards would not be implemented until the 2025-2026 school year.
Rep. Andrew Farmer, a Republican, questioned why the measure was needed and what would be taught as a result. He also wanted to know if there would be any additional costs for the state.
Farmer, who voted in favor of the bill, said, “I know that my daughter learns a lot about Black history.” “She’s come home and is telling me all she’s learned at school.” So, at the very least, I know she’s being taught that. As a result, I was just interested.”
Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers Jr., who attended high school and college in Tennessee and was the first African-American air traffic controller, should be taught to Tennessee’s fifth and eighth-graders, according to Hakeem.
He also wants pupils to learn about Tennessee’s first Black legislator, Samson Keeble, and the state’s first Black female judge, Bernice Donnell, who was also the country’s first Black bankruptcy judge.
The Tennessee State Board of Education is required by law to evaluate education standards every six years. The social studies criteria are set to be evaluated again in July 2022.
Every year, the board receives $106,500 for academic standards evaluation and carries over any unspent monies. It had $202,321 in its academic standards reserve as of Feb. 8. The board will use reserve monies to purchase books or tools for the new curricula, according to the bill.
The bill comes at a time when the Republican Party is attempting to censor how racist stories are taught in schools on a national and state level. Tennessee school districts might face financial penalties if they break a state law approved in May that prohibits the teaching of certain racial and discrimination themes in schools.
Republicans Kelly Keisling of Byrdstown and Paul Sherrell of Sparta, both white Tennessee House members, voted against the bill. Bud Hulsey and Iris Rudder, both Republicans, did not vote.