SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California high school students may need to start taking a one semester class in ethnic studies in order to graduate.

Assembly Bill 331, introduced Thursday, would require the students in grades 9-12 to take an ethnic studies course in either social studies or English starting in the 2023-24 school year. The Instructional Quality Commission would develop the course curriculum with input from ethnic studies professors at universities and colleges, along with representatives from local education agencies and teachers with experience or educational backgrounds in studying and teaching ethnic studies. The class could run either one semester or a full school year, depending on what the individual school district decides.

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High school students are already required to complete the following in order to get a diploma:

  • 3 courses of English
  • 3 courses of social studies (including US history, geography, world history, culture, geography, American government & civics, and economics)
  • 2 courses of mathematics
  • 2 courses of science
  • 2 courses of physical education
  • 1 course of visual or performing arts, world language, or career technical education

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A similar bill, AB 2772, was vetoed last year by Governor Brown. It would have authorized school districts to apply to the State Department of Education for a grant to fund ethnic studies courses. In his veto message, Governor Brown wrote: “School districts already can, and are, requiring ethnic studies for graduation. While I recognize the value of these courses, I am reluctant to encourage yet another graduation requirement, especially when students are already overburdened by multiple tests and endless hours of homework.”

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He did sign AB 2016 in 2016. It required the state to: “adopt, modify, or revise, a model curriculum in ethnic studies, and would encourage each school district and charter school that maintains any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive, that does not otherwise offer a standards-based ethnic studies curriculum to offer a course of study in ethnic studies based on the model curriculum.”

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Several districts in the area already offer or require ethnic studies courses, including: Woodland Joint Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District.

In 2016 the Instructional Quality Commission and California Board of Education came up with a new history and social studies framework for the state’s 6.2 million public school students. The framework helps guide publishers in choosing material for textbooks. It was last overhauled in 2000.

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AB 2408, introduced in 2018, would have required all California State University campuses to offer ethnic studies courses, including on the issues of race, gender, and sexual identity. The bill died in committee.