This week, I had the honor of presenting to the House a bill I cosponsored and led through the Education Committee — H.3, An act relating to ethnic and social equity studies standards for public school. The bill was presented on Thursday, January 31. It passed on a unanimous vote of 140-0 on Friday, February 1. Below is part of my speech before the House.

H.3, An act relating to ethnic and social equity studies standards for public schools, is a bill that your House Education Committee believes will begin a process that will encourage positive changes to the way students learn about the historical and cultural contributions of ethnic groups and social groups.

The bill calls for the formation of a Working Group to bring together education experts, and a multitude of stakeholders who represent people from many racial, ethnic and indigenous groups, females, LGBTQIA people, individuals who experience disabilities, and groups that have been historically subject to persecution or genocide.

This Working Group will research and recommend ways we can act to reduce bias, harassment, and disproportionate patterns of discipline of students from marginalized ethnic and social groups in Vermont’s education system. Additionally, the bill sets forth a process to work toward greater equity in our schools by reviewing ways we can provide a fuller and more accurate representation of history and culture for our students.

Madam Speaker, our education system is top notch. Our administrators, teachers, and education professionals do extraordinary work. Yet recent evidence suggests students of historically marginalized ethnic and social groups face greater challenges and barriers to educational success.

Your House Education Committee has heard numerous testimonials that describe disturbing patterns of harassment and discrimination in our our communities and at our schools. While existing education standards and curriculum frequently draw on reputable national constructs that strive for balance, they sometimes fail to tell the stories of all people, including those who have been historically marginalized.

Madame Speaker, the goals of H.3 are consistent with the stated goals of our education system. In the Education Committee, we primarily look at education policies through the lens of equity. We ask questions, such as, “how do we ensure equal opportunity for all of our students?” Or, “how can we help all of our learners achieve success, regardless of who they are, where they’re from, or how they identify?” These are the types of questions that H.3 seeks to answer for a growing number of students who are part of one, or many, of the social groups and/or ethnic groups defined within the bill. To provide equity, we must see, hear, learn from, and grow with people who have been minimized or written out of our textbooks and classrooms. H.3 is a first step to begin this critically important work.

In the course of testimony, we heard from many organizations and professionals who work in and with our schools. We learned from students and citizens, who told us of their experiences.

Madame Speaker, your House Education Committee recommends passage of H.3 on a vote of 10-0-1. This bill is a first step to move all of our citizens into our textbooks, into our classrooms,  and into students’ hearts and minds where the seeds of learning are planted. We ask for your consideration and support when the vote is taken.