GOP efforts to limit how race is taught in Georgia schools increase

Gov. Brian Kemp delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Georgia Legislature on Jan. 13, 2022. He said he would work with lawmakers against "divisive ideologies like critical race theory" in schools. Four bills on that topic were filed within two weeks. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

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Gov. Brian Kemp delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Georgia Legislature on Jan. 13, 2022. He said he would work with lawmakers against "divisive ideologies like critical race theory" in schools. Four bills on that topic were filed within two weeks. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Within two weeks of Gov. Brian Kemp’s mention of critical race theory in his State of the State address, Georgia lawmakers have filed four bills to address race in schools.

The latest, filed Thursday, is House Bill 1084 by Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville. It prohibits teaching “divisive concepts,” such as that the United States is “fundamentally racist.”

That divisive concepts language also appears in Senate Bill 375 by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga. His bill, filed Wednesday, also targets worker training for state agencies, requiring annual reviews and termination of contractors who violate the provisions.

Both of those bills have powerful backers. Mullis is chairman of the Senate’s Rules Committee, through which all bills must pass. House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones, a Republican from Milton, has signed on to Wade’s bill.

Wade himself signed onto House Bill 888, the first such bill to be introduced. It would dock school districts 20% of their state funding for violations. Next came Senate Bill 377, which would withhold half that amount.

Mullis supports that one, too. So do all of the senators in GOP leadership, including Senate President Butch Miller, a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Some lawmakers say constituents have complained about the way race is addressed in schools. Critics of the legislation contend that politicians are manufacturing an issue to excite supportive voters and get them to the polls in this election year.

A coalition of advocacy groups said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the legislation is “a cruel political move to use taxpayer dollars as a weapon to wield against teaching the truth.” The coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the Southern Education Foundation and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Action Fund.

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