Arizona voters could decide an amendment in 2022 designed to prevent critical race theory in schools

On Nov. 8, 2022, Arizona voters could decide a constitutional amendment designed to prevent what the measure’s proponents calls critical race theory.

On Feb. 17, the Arizona House of Representatives approved House Concurrent Resolution 2001 (HCR 2001), passing the amendment by a vote of 31-28. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. Republicans have a 16-14 majority in the state Senate.

The official title of the HCR 2001 is the “Stop Critical Race Theory and Racial Discrimination in Schools and Other Public Institutions Act.” The purpose section of the resolution states that ideologies and practices known as critical race theory contradict the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Arizona Constitution by dividing people based on race and ethnicity.

The measure would amend the sections of the constitution that deal with preferential treatment and discrimination (Section 36 of Article II) and education (Article XI). Among other provisions and details, the measure would:

  1. limit any affirmative action policies taken in order to qualify for a federal program to outreach, advertising, and communication;
  2. prohibit compelling or soliciting any applicant, teacher, employee, or student to support an ideology or movement that promotes differential treatment based on race or giving preference based on such support; and
  3. prohibit any public education employee from endorsing ideas that violate the Civil Rights Act and Article II of the Arizona Constitution or requiring participation in training that promotes them. The amendment would specify seven such ideas, including: “That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or ethnicity, is subject to blame or judgment or bears responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race or ethnic group.”

Rep. Steve Kaiser (R) said the amendment would make sure “Arizona’s students and teachers are never discriminated against based upon their race or taught to discriminate against others based on race.”

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (D), a teacher, said the amendment seeks to address something that’s not an issue in schools. Pawlic said, “We aren’t planning lessons that will tear down children and make them feel badly about themselves, their culture, or their gender. That’s not what teachers do.”

The legislature is also considering a statutory bill. On Feb. 3, the Arizona House passed House Bill 2112 by a vote of 31-28. The bill would not need voter approval but would require the governor’s signature. HB 2112 has provisions similar to HCR 2001 and prohibits instruction promoting the same concepts specified and listed in HCR 2001.

In 2021, the Arizona Legislature passed and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation included in budget bills that addressed teaching about race in public schools. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned the legislation as a violation of the state’s single-subject rules for bills.

Four statewide measures are currently certified for the Nov. 8 ballot in Arizona. One measure that was put on the ballot by the legislature would allow some non-citizen students to receive in-state college tuition. The legislature also put two constitutional amendments on the ballot concerning the state’s citizen initiative process. The fourth measure is a veto referendum against a 2021 bill to reduce the state’s income tax brackets to two and provide for a flat rate when state revenue reaches a certain threshold.

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