Gov. Gavin Newsom approved Assembly Bill 101 on Oct. 5, which consists of requiring a one-semester ethnic studies class as a condition to earn a high school diploma. This bill applies to all secondary school learning institutions in the state of California, including charter schools.
Assemblymember Jose Medina of California’s 61st district, which includes Riverside, authored the bill. Before becoming a California legislator, he taught for 34 years — 20 of where were at Poly High School of Riverside. He taught ethnic studies and Chicano studies, two subjects he said he had a passion to teach that led to his eventual authoring of AB 101. He noticed the positive response of students in the classroom to seeing themselves represented as well as learning a new facet of history that had not been presented before.
“When I got to the legislature, there had been a bill before mine signed by the governor,” Medina said referring to AB 1460. “That bill told the Department of Education to develop a curriculum on ethnic studies. After that bill, I heard many people clamoring for ethnic studies. With my experience in the classroom, I thought it shouldn’t be a curriculum that just sits on the shelf. Studies have shown that everyone gains profits from taking ethnic studies, so I decided to introduce a bill to make it a graduation requirement.”
Medina described his experiences with this bill, which was vetoed three times by both former Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov. Gavin Newsom before being signed. He said that he went through the same lengthy process every time.
“The bill would go to the education committee and the assembly,” Medina said. “Then it would go to a vote on the assembly floor, (and) pass out of the assembly. It would then go to the Senate education committee, then back to the Senate floor for a vote, then finally to the governor’s desk. While I was doing that [over the three years], the Department of Education was developing the curriculum that AB 1460 had mandated, which was a very controversial process. It took at least three years to get the curriculum approved.”
Rosenda Pike, associate dean of the School of Education, specializes in methods of teaching for diverse learners. She also said people were calling for the subject of ethnic studies to be integrated into learning.
“For over a decade now, groups of people have been advocating for a more equitable representation of the ethnic groups that make up our nation’s history,” Pike said. “A call for a culturally comprehensive education that includes introducing diverse ancestral legacies that represent the nation’s diversity and has been the focus of these groups that include college professors, public school teachers and state policy-makers.”
Michelle Rosas, sophomore elementary education major, researched the bill after its approval because of the connection to their major. They highlighted the importance of children seeing representation and true history in the classroom.
“I think the bill is important as an elementary education major because we need to instill accurate education for children,” Rosas said. “The requirement just adds on to the material being taught but most importantly children can see an accurate diverse representation of themselves too.”
Rosas also discussed how they want to see the requirement implemented into courses, as well as how they want to carry out segments of ethnic studies in their future classroom.
“I want to be able to reach each individual individually,” Rosas said. “The ethnic studies requirement helps aid this. It also allows the educator leader to connect with the students on a deeper level and helps students understand their culture and more.”
Pike explained how this new course requirement will serve future CBU students well, including those who plan on diving into the education field.
“Future CBU students will benefit from ethnic studies courses in 9-12 grades,” Pike said. “I anticipate that all students, especially those entering the field of education, will have knowledge of their own ancestor’s contributions to our great nation and a deeper appreciation for the diverse peoples that make our nation so unique. For those going into the field of education, I anticipate that our students will be more prepared to take on the responsibility of implementing culturally responsive practices.”
Classes will be offered beginning in the 2025-26 school year and will become an official mandate for graduation for the class of 2029-30.