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Pritzker tells College Board not to change African American Studies course to appease DeSantis

Pritzker slams DeSantis for blocking AP Black history course
Pritzker slams DeSantis over Black history course 00:35

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- Gov. JB Pritzker is criticizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his decision to block an advanced placement course on African American Studies from that state's school curriculum.

Pritzker sent a letter to the College Board, which oversees AP exams, warning the non-profit group not to change the African American Studies course to appease DeSantis.

"I urge you to maintain your reputation as an academic institution dedicated to the advancement of students and refuse to bow to political pressure that would ask you to rewrite our nation's true, if sometimes unpleasant, history. One governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history," he wrote.

Advanced Placement courses are college-level classes offered to high-school students.

The College Board, after a decade of development, is testing the African American Studies course at 60 high schools nationwide. No school or state would be required to offer it after its scheduled rollout.

The organization offers AP courses across the academic spectrum, including math, science, social studies, foreign languages and fine arts. Taught at a college level, students who score high enough on the course's final exam usually earn course credit at their university.

The controversy over the African American Studies course stems from a Jan. 12 letter from the Florida Department of Education's Office of Articulation to a senior director at The College Board. The letter advised that the course wouldn't be offered in Florida public schools unless changes were made.

Ben Crump expected to sue Gov. DeSantis on rejection of African American course 03:00

Florida's letter said the course "significantly lacks educational value." The department later published an infographic outlining "concerns found within" the course, including topics such as "Black queer studies" and "the reparations movement." Education officials also expressed concerns about several authors whose works would be a requirement within the course.

"In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion," the letter said.

The College Board released a statement this week saying that the organization plans to "release the official framework" for the course on Feb. 1, suggesting changes could come.

"This framework, under development since March 2022, replaces the preliminary pilot course framework under discussion to date," the statement said. "Before a new AP course is made broadly available, it is piloted in a small number of high schools to gather feedback from high schools and colleges. The official course framework incorporates this feedback and defines what students will encounter on the AP Exam for college credit and placement."

DeSantis also made headlines last year when he signed the "Stop WOKE Act," which prohibits the teaching of critical race theory in Florida schools. 

Gov. DeSantis defends rejection of African American studies course 03:22

Pritzker, in his letter to the College Board, said he's "extremely troubled" at the possibility DeSantis is pressuring them to change the course "in order to fit Florida's racist and homophobic laws."

He also warned that Illinois will "not accept this watering down of history," and urged the board to "preserve the fundamental right to an education that does not follow the political grandstanding of Governor DeSantis and the whims of Republicans in Florida."

"Illinois expects any AP course offered on African American Studies to include a factual accounting of history, including the role played by black queer Americans," Pritzker wrote. "Black history is American History. Many students who will take this class encounter racism on a personal and systemic level long before they reach high school and take their first AP class. For some, a course such as this may be one of the first times they see their own faces and experiences reflected back to them on the page. They deserve the opportunity, alongside their classmates, to learn the honest and accurate history of the nation they now live in."

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump has threatened to sue DeSantis over Florida's rejection of the AP African American Studies course.

"The question really is this, brothers and sisters. Are we going to let Gov. DeSantis, or anybody, exterminate Black history from the classrooms in Florida?" Crump said Wednesday during an event at the Capitol, flanked by Black lawmakers and three students who would be plaintiffs in a lawsuit.

Crump added, "We are here to give notice to Gov. DeSantis that if he does not negotiate with the College Board to allow AP (Advanced Placement) African American studies to be taught in the classrooms across the state of Florida, that these three young people will be the lead plaintiffs in an historic lawsuit."

Florida blocks high school African American studies class 01:01
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