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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Banning Critical Race Theory

Republican lawmakers in Arizona have attempted to ban critical race theory three times so far.

Katie Hobbs holds a campaign event at the Carpenters Local Union 1912 headquarters on November 5, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona, ahead of her gubernatorial win.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) recently vetoed a Republican-backed education bill that would ban public K-12 schools from teaching critical race theory (CRT) to students.

CRT is a legal academic discipline that began in the 1980s. In 2020, the far right co-opted the term CRT, weaponizing it as a boogeyman in the latest culture war pushed by Republicans. Currently, more than 18 states have enacted policies targeting CRT, according to Education Week. Most notoriously, in 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which prohibited educators from teaching lessons on race or LGBTQ issues.

In an interview with NPR, renowned legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, who coined the term CRT, said that she regards far right attacks on the legal discipline as an attempt to erase history and deteriorate democratic processes. “The attack on our democracy and the attack on anti-racism are one in the same,” she said.

Arizona’s Senate Bill 1305 was the most recent attempt by Republicans in the state to punish schools that teach topics relating to race, ethnicity, discrimination, political dissent, and historical oppression. If Hobbs had signed the bill into law, educators teaching at Arizona public universities found to have violated the law would have been subjected to a $5,000 fine.

“It is time to stop utilizing students and teachers in culture wars based on fearmongering and unfounded accusations,” Hobbs said in a statement to state Sen. Warren Petersen (R), president of the state senate. “Bills like SB1305 only serve to divide and antagonize.”

SB 1305 is only the latest attempt by Arizona Republicans to pass a CRT ban. Previous Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) had signed a CRT ban into law in 2021, but that bill was later voided by the Arizona Supreme Court as unconstitutional. In 2022, Republicans again attempted to pass an anti-CRT law, but were unable to secure enough votes to advance the bill.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) responded to Governor Hobbs’s veto by launching a hotline that parents and students can use to report educators who are teaching CRT or lessons on emotions and identity. Horne served as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2003 to 2011 and as the state’s Attorney General from 2011 to 2015. In 2012, Horne was investigated for campaign violations and was fined $10,000. In 2022, voters re-elected him for another term as Superintendent.

Arizona Republic reports that Horne’s “Empower Hotline” was a campaign promise he ran on during the 2022 election. In his previous position as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Horne pushed lawmakers to effectively ban ethnic studies in the state in 2010. In 2017, a federal judge overturned the ban, finding it discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website states that the hotline will allow individuals to “make a report about inappropriate lessons that detract from teaching academic standards such as those that focus on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit, promoting gender ideology, social emotional learning, or inappropriate sexual content.”

Tips made through the hotline will lead to an investigation into the teacher by the department. If the educator does not stop teaching the “inappropriate” content, they will be disciplined.

A similar hotline was established in Virginia by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in 2022, but was later shut down because it received too few tips, with parents primarily using the hotline to praise teachers.

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