CA Legislature Allocates $10 Million for Human Rights Curricula, Genocide Education Training, Museum


SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature passed AB 97, the Budget Act of 2017 on June 15, which allocates $10 million to support the History-Social Science curriculum framework, as well as regional trainings and professional development available for teachers and administrators with an emphasis on the Armenian Genocide and other human and civil rights issues. The legislative initiative was spearheaded by California State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino (D-CA-25), Chair of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education.

“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly, we extend our profound gratitude to State Senator Portantino for his leadership in securing substantial funding for the recently adopted History-Social Science curriculum framework equipping educators with innovative resources in the teaching of human and civil rights, including genocide education and prevention. Senator Portantino’s achievement is a testament to his commitment in shaping human rights education throughout his legislative career,” Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan stated. “The Armenian Assembly also commends Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon for his staunch support on issues of importance to his Armenian American constituents, and to all legislators who voted in favor of the 2017-2018 budget,” he added.

The total figure includes a $3-million funding commitment for the Glendale-based Armenian Museum, bringing the state investment in this project to $4 million. Earlier in the year, Portantino helped restore the initial $1 million from last year’s budget. Portantino asked the State Senate to prioritize increasing the State’s commitment to the museum to an additional $3 million over the next three years.

Portantino, with the support of Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León and Budget Subcommittee Chair Richard Roth, arranged a presentation from Armenian Museum Executive Board Member Zaven Kazazian before the budget subcommittee. Portantino joined Kazazian in making the presentation before the subcommittee.

“I am extremely happy that as a member of the budget committee, I was able to bring these two important proposals to light this year. It was such a pleasure to invite Zaven Kazazian from the Armenian Museum Board to Sacramento to present this significant human rights project to the attention of the Senate and then into the State Budget,” commented Portantino.

In 1985, the California Legislature considered a bill introducing a human rights and genocide curriculum throughout the California public school system. Both the State Senate and Assembly passed the bill in September of that year. Then-Governor George Deukmejian signed the bill into law on September 28, 1985, and the new curriculum was first printed in 1987.

By 1998, however, the publication was out of print. The Armenian National Institute (ANI) brought the matter to the attention of the California Legislature. Then-State Assemblymember Howard Kaloogian (R-CA-74) and then-State Senator Adam Schiff (D-CA-27) requested appropriations for the reprinting of the Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget. The Armenian Assembly Western Region Office took the lead in coordinating community support for the budget allocation needed to reissue the curriculum.

On April 23, 2001, California passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 22 to further develop a model curriculum on human rights and genocide. Resolution No. 22 “recommends that the State Department of Education and school districts convene workshops and teacher training seminars to introduce state educators to the curriculum” and encourages teachers “to utilize the exemplary curriculum to teach the millions of state pupils about human rights and genocide.”

“The Armenian Assembly and Armenian National Institute have been longtime supporters of human rights and genocide education and assisted in creating appropriate curricula. Funding to help train teachers accurately instruct students on the Armenian Genocide and other examples of genocide such as the Holocaust, the Cambodian, and Rwandan is essential,” ANI Director Dr. Rouben Adalian said.