The measure would have directed the California Department of Education to form an advisory panel to develop the curriculum, which would then be approved by the state Board of Education and made available for local districts to adopt if they wished to do so.
Supporters of the courses say they engage students and help them develop a better sense of self-worth because they learn about themselves and their ethnic and cultural history.
The bill's author, Assemblyman
"As an individual who has academically, professionally and personally benefited from learning about various cultures, ethnicities and heritages, I believe this is a missed opportunity for students throughout the state," he said.
In a statement, Brown said the bill would create a redundant process, as another state panel, the Instructional Quality Commission, is currently revising state standards to include guidance on ethnic studies courses.
"Creating yet another advisory body specific to ethnic studies would be duplicative and undermine our current curriculum process," Brown wrote.
The veto is a blow to a movement across the state to require ethnic studies in high schools. Supporters have had success at the local level. School boards in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Pico Rivera had approved plans for the classes to be a requirement for graduation.
But similar efforts have failed at the state level. A previous iteration of the bill would have required ethnic studies statewide, but was watered down before advancing in the Legislature. Another measure, also authored by Alejo, stalled last year for lack of funds.
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