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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Friday to require all students to complete an ethnic studies course in order to graduate from high school.

Why it matters: Ethnic studies programs encourage a more expansive recounting of history to include Native Americans, Latino and Black experiences. The legislation comes as more states are starting to offer such courses.

  • Schools that offer such programs have seen a decline in dropout rates, a study suggests, as well as a rise in college acceptances.

The big picture: The requirement won't take effect until 2029, but schools are required to offer ethnic studies courses starting in 2025 in order to give schools time to develop curriculum.

  • In March, the California State Board of Education unanimously approved a model ethnic studies curriculum for its K-12 students, which focuses on "illuminating the often-untold struggles and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/a/x Americans, and Asian Americans in California."

What they're saying: Newsom said that the legislation will help "expand educational opportunities in schools, teach students about the diverse communities that comprise California and boost academic engagement and attainment."

  • "The bill also provides a number of safeguards to ensure that courses will be free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students," Newsom said in a statement.
  • "The signing of AB 101 today is one step in the long struggle for equal education for all students," said Assemblymember Jose Medina.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 14, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on equal opportunity in education

On October 14th, Axios race and justice reporter Russ Contreras discussed how education systems are preparing their students for equal opportunity and sustained success in life after school, featuring Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández demonstrated how the federal government can aid states in addressing education inequalities, the difficulties of recruiting teachers in rural areas, and her focus on alleviating poverty to give children better educational opportunities.

  • On the importance of hiring teachers who can relate to students on a community and cultural level: “We need to make sure that we are training teachers that come from the community that reflect the children that they are teaching, because then that’s where the aspiration starts.”
  • On improving infrastructure to support greater broadband access: “Creating that infrastructure in those communities so there’s good broadband, so they can stay connected to the world, so they can assign subjects and projects that require that students plug into the internet and gather information. That’s the broadband work that we need to do.”

Joseph I. Castro discussed how a counselor at a college fair opened up his eyes to educational opportunity, how student services play a central role in education equity, and how public universities are working to eliminate inequities for students.

  • On investing in student services: “I believe that we need to invest in our students. They are the next generation of leaders. In order for us to support them, we of course need to have extraordinary faculty members in the classroom...and we need to make sure that they have food and housing, access to technology, all the tools necessary to be successful.”
  • On California State University’s plans for an Equity Innovation Hub: “It will be a place where Hispanic serving institutions, like 21 of our Cal State campuses, as well as hundreds across the country, will be able to work together to serve students from Latino and other backgrounds and help prepare them for STEM fields.”

Axios Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Bank of America president of Business Banking Raul Anaya and Eduardo Díaz, Smithsonian Latino Center director and interim director of the National Museum of the American Latino. They discussed how race and racism have shaped the history of the U.S., and how these effects are still being felt in the Latino community.

  • Eduardo Díaz on the influence behind Smithsonian’s recent program “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past”: “With the murder of George Floyd, it was cathartic, it brought to bear a lot of underlying historical aspects of the way race and racism has shaped this country’s history and culture, and I think it was a pivotal moment when the Smithsonian needed to do something and step forward to address it…”

COVID's impact on Ohio education

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Ohio's K-12 school report cards were released Thursday, shining a spotlight on pandemic-related challenges that include spiking absenteeism and a significant drop in statewide test scores.

Why it matters: The state's annual reports provide families and taxpayers a snapshot of their district's academic achievement, spending and demographic data, while also shaping instructional decisions.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.