PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona lawmakers voted May 27 to ban certain types of anti-racism training for government workers, but the Senate rejected a proposal to fine teachers for failing to discuss all sides of "controversial issues."
Senate Republicans joined a national conservative backlash against critical race theory, which seeks to highlight how racist policies of the past manifest today. Critics say it pits races against each other and teaches whites that they are responsible for past injustices.
The Senate voted to prohibit the use of any public funds on employee training "that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex."
"I think its inappropriate to use taxpayer money in a public setting to teach racism," said Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Republican from Mesa.
This year, ahead of the 2022 midterms, Republicans in at least 16 states have introduced proposals targeting critical race theory.
Sen. Martín Quezada, a Glendale Democrat, said the legislation takes Arizona backwards at a time when people should be seeking better understanding of people of different races.
"These are uncomfortable conversations," Quezada said. "They aren’t supposed to make you feel good. That’s the point of these conversations."
The measure has already passed the House and goes next to Gov. Doug Ducey.
Meanwhile, the Senate rejected a bill to require teachers to present all perspectives of controversial issues as best they can. State or county prosecutors could seek fines of up to $5,000 for any violation, which could not be paid by the school. Supporters said the measure would prevent indoctrination, while critics said it would make teachers scared to discuss topics that might be considered controversial.
Republican Sen. Paul Boyer of Glendale, who is a teacher, joined all 15 Democrats in opposition, sinking the measure.
"I don’t think that those who deal with felonies should be monitoring classrooms and snooping around to see if there’s something controversial going on," Boyer said, adding the measure would exacerbate a teacher shortage.
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