Georgia Gov. Bryan Kemp signs law on ‘divisive concepts’

Flanked by family members, supporters and students, Gov. Brian Kemp signed several bills into law Thursday that he says will put the responsibility of a child’s education back in the hands of parents.

Driving the news: Kemp signed two of his most controversial laws: the Parents’ Bill of Rights and a law banning the teaching of “divisive concepts.”

  • He also gave his stamp of approval to bills that would remove obscene materials from school libraries and make local school board meetings more transparent.

Why it matters: Those bills are intended to shore up Kemp’s base as he faces a major challenge from former Senator David Perdue in May and a challenge in November’s general election from Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Kemp, who signed the bills at the Forsyth County Arts & Learning Center, said his bills “put students and parents first by keeping woke politics out of the classroom.”

  • “It ensures that the entire history of our state and our nation is taught accurately because here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be pawns to those who indoctrinate our children with their partisan agendas,” he said of the divisive concepts bill.

The other side: The Georgia Democratic Party held a press conference following Kemp’s signing ceremony with parents in Forsyth County who objected to the governor’s claims.

  • Angie Darnell, who has children in the Forsyth County school system, said Kemp’s “plan to control what is taught in our schools could limit our children’s ability to learn a complete and accurate history of our country.”
  • “Government interference in our classrooms is dangerous,” she said.

Forsyth County mother Angie Darnell criticizes Kemp’s education laws at the Georgia Democratic Party press conference. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Context: Critical race theory, a college-level academic concept that examines how racism affects American society and how systemic injustices persist today, is not part of the public education curriculum in Georgia.

  • It has become a hot topic among some conservatives, who say it is used to make white students feel bad about their race.

What you say: It comes as no surprise to Charis Granger-Mbugua that the uproar over critical race theory and the resulting accounts came after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The Cobb County parent and former teacher tells Axios that American progress on race is cyclical: we are all witnessing a tragedy that is shaking the country’s moral core, and we begin to try to understand the root of the problem.

  • Some are beginning to resist this progress and things stagnate or move backwards. Rinse and repeat.
  • “There are certain groups of people who are really uncomfortable having these admittedly difficult conversations,” she said.

Anthony Downer, a teacher at Atlanta Public Schools, tells Axios that the divisive concepts bill will make some educators reluctant to teach students about racism and historical events.

  • Downer also says it is targeting teachers who are already feeling burned out in a profession that is constantly under political scrutiny.
  • “This is a microcosm of how we treat teachers and how we value them,” he said. “We intentionally dislike our public schools based on how we treat our teachers and students.”