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GOP ban on 'critical race theory' in Az schools poised to fall 1 vote short

A Republican bill to ban so-called "critical race theory" does not have enough votes to proceed.

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, told the Arizona Mirror he will vote against it if it reaches the Senate floor because he was against a last-minute amendment in the House.

"I've told them since last year on the K-12 side that the punishment should be to the district and never the teacher," Boyer said, referring to fines or loss of certification teachers could potentially face if found in violation.

The Arizona House of Representatives passed the measure last week by a 31-27 vote after a heated debate during which the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said she didn't think it would be appropriate to explain the motives behind Buffalo shooting in Arizona classrooms.

The latest iteration of this bill — dubbed by critics as the anti-Critical Race Theory bill — is Senate Bill 1412, and it would bar educators from teaching that casts "blame based on race, ethnicity or sex" in all Arizona public schools. That, Udall said, would include instruction on what happened in Buffalo this month, where a white supremacist allegedly targeted and killed Black shoppers in a grocery story.

"If a teacher can't teach (history) without placing blame or judgment on the basis of race, they shouldn't be teaching," she said during the debate.

Teachers who violate that would face discipline from the State Board of Education — including the prospect of losing their certification to teach — and school districts could be fined up to $5,000.

Critical Race Theory is a high-level field of academic study about the ways in which racism has become embedded in various aspects of society — and turn it into a catchall term for various race-related teachings, including instruction on "white privilege" and "anti-racism" curriculum.

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There is no evidence that it is being taught in Arizona K-12 schools — or even most college classrooms.

A similar law was approved last year as part of the budget, but the Arizona Supreme Court ruled it and many other provisions were unconstitutionally shoehorned into the annual spending plan in order to get the necessary votes from 16 Republican senators and 31 GOP representatives.

Given lawmakers would not be able to pass it the same way this year, it's all but certain that the bill will fail without Boyer's support, as Republicans in each legislative chamber hold the majority by only a single vote.

Boyer's opposition has doomed many other bills this year, and he said most of them fail on the floor because his GOP colleagues don't check to see if they have enough votes.

"Nobody counts around here," he said.

The numbers seem to bear that out, as an inordinate number of bills have died on the Senate floor this year. So far, 39 bills have been rejected in votes of the full Senate, the most since 41 bills died on the floor in 2006. The current record is 66 in 1998.

Kim Quintero, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, said Senate President Karen Fann won't put bills up until she knows that it has the votes, and said she believed the 16 needed votes existed when she put the 39 failed bills up for a vote.

"I believe she was under the impression she had the votes, then those bills ended up not playing out," she told the Mirror.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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Maria Underwood