On Thursday, lawmakers in Colorado passed a sweeping bill to reform K-12 education in the state. If Gov. Jared Polis signs the legislation in question, Colorado will require LGBTQ-inclusive education in public schools, as well as a curriculum with a comprehensive focus on other minority and marginalized groups in the state.
“Our intent was to start teaching the history of everybody,” Colorado Rep. Brianna Buentello, who co-sponsored the bill alongside Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, told Reuters. "It’s a very different story that’s being told than the one, as minorities, we live every single day."
According to the Colorado legislature's website, the bill will require funding for the teaching of "the history, culture, and social contributions of American Indians, Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals within these minority groups, and the intersectionality of significant social and cultural features within these communities, and the contributions and persecution of religious minorities" in Colorado public school history classes.
The bill now awaits a signature from Polis, who is the first openly gay man elected governor in the United States. A spokesperson for Polis told Reuters that the governor will review the bill's final text before deciding whether or not to sign it.
If Polis does sign the legislation, Colorado will become the third U.S. state to require LGBTQ-friendly education into its public schools' history curriculums, according to Reuters. The first was California, which passed such a law in 2011; New Jersey followed suit eight years later, although its law only applies to middle and high school students.
"Educating our students on the contributions of a number of people from different backgrounds isn't a rewrite of history, its a correction," Colorado State Sen. Angela Williams tweeted on Thursday as the bill was being debated. "I'm proud to speak to the powerful belief that diversity is the source of our strength. Thanks to @SenadoraJulie for bringing HB19-1192." State Sen. Julie Gonzales introduced the Senate version of the bill.
Progressive activists have long advocated for public school education programs that are more LGBTQ-friendly, both in sex education classes and in general. In a 2013 survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, less than five percent of LGBTQ students said they'd received education that included "positive representations of LGBT-related topics." And according to a 2015 report from a coalition of LGBTQ rights groups, eight states have laws on the books that explicitly restrict LGBTQ education in public schools.
The three lawmakers who introduced the Colorado bill — Gonzales, Buentello and Gonzales-Gutierrez — are all Latinx women who were elected to office in the 2018 Democratic wave.
In addition to reforming how LGBTQ education is taught in Colorado, the bill will also require more frequent community meetings to be held to discuss and debate public school education. Currently, school districts are required to hold such public forums once every 10 years, according to the bill's description; if signed into law, Colorado districts will be required to hold them every six years.