The Maine House of Representatives voted 77-54 on February 22 to advance LD 2001, an amended bill that would create a special independent advisory council to review and oversee the teaching of African American studies in Maine public schools. House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D – Dist. 118, Portland) was the primary sponsor of LD 2001, which was carried over from last session. The original bill was amended in committee to include the establishment of a 15-member combined African American Studies and Wabanaki Advisory Council. This council would assist school districts and teachers with identifying appropriate educational materials, and with funding.

“All of our Maine students, regardless of their backgrounds, [have] been waiting on this,” Talbot Ross told the committee at the meeting in January. “This benefits all Maine learners.”

The proposal would provide $2 million to assist schools in implementing the curricula, including $1 million for African American studies and $1 for Wabanaki studies. Talbot Ross told the committee that the intent of the amendment is not to blend or equate the two histories, because the experiences of Wabanaki tribal members and non-immigrant African Americans are very different.

“What we are trying to do is move forward in a coordinated manner, in order to get both African American and Wabanaki studies into our curriculum, get [them] positioned within our learning results and content standards, [and] be able to look at our professional development preparation programs so that we’re training the teachers who need to teach the material [and] that we’re engaging our communities, said the speaker.

Maine already has laws on the books to require the teaching of African American history and Wabanaki studies, but only some schools have fully implemented them into their curriculum. A 2022 report by the ACLU of Maine and tribal groups found that 21 years after Wabanaki studies was first mandated to be taught in classrooms, it still was not fully implemented, and the state was not enforcing the law.