Proposed Legislation Targeting History Education Garnering Attention

One bill proposes the prohibition of certain courses pertaining to race, gender or political affiliation.

We’re only a few weeks into the 2021 Legislative Session and people are already discussing some education proposals. Two bills are attempting to add to what’s being taught in schools, while two others want to prohibit the teaching of certain subjects. None of the bills have made it out of committee yet, but the prohibitory bills are already causing controversy. Here are some education bills to keep an eye on in this session:


Sponsor: Rep. Fred Allen (D)

Status: Referred to the House Education Committee Jan. 11 

Summary: The bill would amend Arkansas law concerning materials required for teaching African American history in K-12 public schools so that instruction would include placing emphasis on the work of American and Arkansas civil rights leaders and events during the civil rights era including Martin Luther King Jr. and John W. Walker.


Lead Sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R)

Other Primary Sponsor: Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R)

Status: Referred to House Education Committee Jan. 21

Summary: This bill seeks to prohibit the offering of certain courses, events and activities that pertain to race, gender, political affiliation, social class or a particular class of people at public schools. The bill would apply to public charter schools as well as state-supported two and four-year higher education institutions. The legislation would also permit withholding state funding for institutions that do offer these courses or activities.

This bill would not prohibit classes or activities for Native American students that are required to be offered in order for a public school or open-enrollment public charter school to comply with federal law. The bill would also not prohibit instruction on the Holocaust, genocide, or the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race or class.


In an interview with KATV, Rep. Lowery said the intention of the bill is to ensure that students “are not subjected to humiliation in terms of trying to make a statement about whether there is inequality or inequity and that’s been happening in some of these programs using critical race theory.” 

Rep. Megan Godfrey, a Republican from Springdale, said via social media that she has serious concerns about HB 1218 and will be voting no on the bill. “I fundamentally believe social justice and solidarity with marginalized groups are core values worth championing. I also worry about the devastating consequences of this bill in eliminating worthy instructional/extracurricular experiences for students in my district,” she said.


Lead Sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R)

Other Primary Sponsor: Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R)

Status: Referred to House Education Committee Jan. 21

Summary: Known as the Saving American History Act of 2021, this bill seeks to prohibit the use of public school funds to teach the 1619 Project curriculum and reduce funds distributed to schools that do.


The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” according to the initiative’s website.

The bill calls the 1619 Project “a racially divisive and revisionist account of history that threatens the integrity of the Union by denying the true principles on which it was founded.” The legislation says “an activist movement is gaining momentum to deny or obfuscate” history by claiming the United States was not founded on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, but rather slavery and oppression. 

In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Rep. Lowery said, “Saying everything hinges around white supremacy, I think that’s extremely divisive.”

Sen. Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock, spoke out against the bill via social media saying, “I hope I never become too fragile to have my notions challenged, especially history written by the ‘victors’ with no voice for the others.”


Lead Sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Other Primary Sponsor: Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R)

Status: Re-referred to Senate Education Committee Jan. 21 

Summary: This bill would amend Arkansas law to require Holocaust education in all public schools beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. 


Arkansas had the lowest Holocaust knowledge score on the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey. The first-ever 50-state survey on Holocaust knowledge among Millennials and Generation Z was released in Sept. 2020.  

— 16 states require Holocaust education, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The bill has bipartisan support with both Democrats and Republicans signing on as co-sponsors in the House and Senate.

Both the Arkansas House and Senate live stream their meetings. You can find links to these streams, as well as agendas and updates on the history of bills at