Arkansas governor defends limits on AP Black history course

Following the state’s last-minute ruling, Arkansas high school students will no longer be offered college credit for the course, nor will it be required to graduate.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on her recent order to stop offering students a new Advanced Placement African-American studies course for college credit pending review, dismissing the curricula as a “lie” and “propaganda.”

During a Thursday appearance on Fox News, Sanders was asked to respond to an excerpt from a statement released by the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP criticizing the state education department for the removal issued this month, just two days prior to the start of school.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee doubled down on her recent order to stop offering students college credit for a new Advanced Placement course in African American history. Here, Sanders prepares to deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address in February. (Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

“The Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP is appalled at the recent decision of Arkansas Department of Education to make a hasteful decision at the final hour to ‘do away with’ AP African American Studies,” the conference stated.

Sanders on Thursday responded: “We’ve got to get back to the basics of teaching math, of teaching reading, writing and American history. And we cannot perpetuate a lie to our students and push this propaganda leftist agenda teaching our kids to hate America and hate one another.”

As previously reported by theGrio, Arkansas has joined Florida as the latest Republican-controlled state to ban or restrict aspects of Black history in the classroom. 

Sanders, who was inaugurated as Arkansas governor in January after serving as the White House press secretary during the presidency of Donald Trump, quickly signed into law the “LEARNS” education bill, which prohibits “indoctrination” and critical race theory in Arkansas public schools. 

The College Board’s new AP African-American studies course had been offered to high schools nationwide for the 2023-24 school year as part of a two-year pilot program. AP courses additionally offer students the opportunity to earn college credits upon passing the final exam.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the first to reject African-American studies, claiming the AP course violates state law and isn’t historically accurate. He went on to eliminate AP psychology because the course covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

Following the state’s last-minute ruling, Arkansas high school students will only be offered the course as an elective, which does not count toward the state’s graduation requirements. The state also refused to pay the $90 cost of the final exam.

The decision has drawn ire from civil rights advocacy groups such as the NAACP, which called the move “reprehensible” and called upon the state’s education department to withdraw the decision.

“Dismissal of an AP African American Studies course is not only a dereliction of duty to ensure equitable education for all Arkansans, but shows clear disdain for the lives and experiences that form part of our history,” the association’s statement reads.

The NAACP additionally highlighted that one of the two schools in Arkansas offering the pilot program is Little Rock Central High School, where the nation witnessed the integration of nine Black students in 1957.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson last week issued a statement calling the removal “abhorrent” and “regressive.”

“Another day in America, and another extremist state government has waged war on Black America while attempting to rewrite history,” Johnson wrote, pledging that the NAACP “remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that truth, justice, and equity prevail. Our children deserve nothing less.”

TheGrio’s April Ryan contributed to this report.

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