As a result of a terrifying movement to censor teachers, one-third of our nation's students are now in classrooms impacted by laws and policies that ban teaching concepts related to race, racism, and gender. Washington state is not immune to this rhetoric, but we are making important progress to reaffirm our dedication to creating school environments that foster belonging and inclusion.
In 2020, the legislature directed the office of the superintendent of public instruction to convene a work group to develop recommendations for integrating, on a regular and ongoing basis, African American history, examinations of racism, and the history of the civil rights movement into existing social studies curriculum for grades 7-12. That workgroup specifically recommended the creation of an African American Studies endorsement for teachers as an important next step in this process. HB 1829, proposed this year, would implement this recommendation.
Please join me in thanking the sponsors of House Bill 1829. Together we are moving forward on our state's commitment to creating more inclusive classrooms for Black students and more relevant history instruction for every Washington student.
These specialty endorsements are important because they show that an educator has specific knowledge in a particular area, and they can appear on their certificate. This legislation would benefit all students as it equips them to become antiracist participants in our communities. With half of all Washington public school students identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of color, we must make a concerted effort to teach about everyone's history so that students can connect to one another and reimagine a more equitable world together.
The OSPI workgroup was co-facilitated by Anthony Shoecraft, a longtime advocate and organizer in Seattle to support young Black students. He described the essential nature of this work as a way to give back to the next generation:
“COVID shined a bright light on a reckoning that needed to happen. Relationships, connections and engagement simply matter for our kids... Ultimately this is an act of ancestral appreciation.”
One of our 2022 legislative priorities is promote antiracist practices and identity-affirming educational experiences to ensure that students of color feel belonging in their classrooms and that educators may teach accurate curriculum without fear of retaliation. We are proud to support HB 1829 and ask you to join us in thanking the legislators who continue to prioritize antiracist classrooms.