Connecticut schools will be required to offer a course in African American, Puerto Rican and Latino history by 2022 under a bill unanimously approved by the state Senate late Thursday night.
The Senate vote came days after the House of Representatives endorsed the plan. The bill now goes to Gov. Ned Lamont for consideration.
The vote came after an emotional speech by Sen. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, who said that for students to be successful, the curriculum they are taught must be rigorous and relevant to their lives.
Noting that very few students consider history or social studies to be their favorite subject, McCrory said, “Well, if you were sitting in a classroom and all you learned was that you was a slave and you was trouble and you didn’t bring anything to this country, then you wouldn’t think that subject was very important to you either. You see the problem we have is, if you were never told you did anything, then you will never believe you can do anything.”
McCrory, a longtime educator himself, said that during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, there were five black Congressmen, but “no one told us, no one told us … Now, that’s the type of history that would motivate you.”
He said that “providing a curriculum where everyone can benefit and everyone can learn about the positive things they’ve done will provide opportunity for all of us to see.”
The bill, which was approved earlier this week in the House, authorizes the State Education Resource Center to develop the one-credit course for high school students and calls on the State Board of Education to approve it no later than Jan. 1, 2021.
The bill requires school districts to offer the course by July, 2022, but stipulates that they can begin offering it as early as July, 2021.
The fiscal note for the development of the course includes one-time costs of $400,000 for curriculum development as well as the annual salary of a full time staff member — $85,000 plus $35,012 in fringe benefits — to ensure that districts meet the requirement.
While students will not be required to take the class — it will be an elective — school districts will be required to offer it.
The bill also requires the state Department of Education to conduct an audit from July, 2022 through July 2024 to ensure the course is being offered by each local and regional board of education.