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Newsom Vetoes California Bill Requiring Ethnic Studies

In this July 23, 2019, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters at hi...

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Above: In this July 23, 2019, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters at his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif.

Gov. Gavin Newsom late Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have made ethnic studies a California high school graduation requirement, citing controversy over the model curriculum.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, a fellow Democrat, criticized the veto of his bill as “a failure to push back against the racial rhetoric and bullying of Donald Trump.”

Newsom said he supports the ethnic studies concept, but cited ongoing discussions and revisions on what should be included in the classes.

An early version of the model curriculum last year “was insufficiently balanced and inclusive and needed to be substantially amended,” he said in his veto message. And Newsom said he believes the latest draft, which is under review, “still needs revision.”

The bill would have required high schools to provide ethnic studies starting in the 2025-26 school year and made ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement starting in the 2029-30 school year. Newsom said “hundreds” of individual schools have already adopted their own curriculum.

Newsom previously signed a bill into law making ethnic studies a requirement to graduate from the California State University system.

Medina said failing to extend the requirement to high school is “a missed opportunity” and “disservice” to students, promising to try again next year. He noted that the Trump administration has threatened to punish schools that include an anti-bias curriculum.

“In order to build racial justice in this state and country, all of our students need to learn the real history of America — and that history includes the diverse experiences and perspectives of people of color,” Medina said.

But the American Jewish Committee applauded the veto while saying it agrees with the need for such a requirement.

“We appreciate Governor Newsom’s insistence on developing balanced and inclusive educational materials,” said Richard Hirschhaut, director of the group's Los Angeles region, in a statement. “It is worth taking the time to get this right.”

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