The administration recently proposed a new Department of Education rule to make it more difficult for nonprofit organizations to open charter schools, forcing them to comply with many unnecessary regulations and bureaucratic paperwork requests.
President Biden is keeping a campaign promise that will, unfortunately, make life more difficult for students and parents.
The administration recently proposed a new Department of Education rule to make it more difficult for nonprofit organizations to open charter schools, forcing them to comply with many unnecessary regulations and bureaucratic paperwork requests. The rule would also prevent for-profit charter school organizations from accessing federal start-up grants.
Regrettably, the president’s approach is out of touch with what parents across the country are demanding for their kids: more choices outside of the traditional public school system.
Nationwide, public school enrollment has fallen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as many teachers unions blocked in-person learning and parents sought other opportunities for their kids. Charter schools, in contrast, largely successfully navigated the pandemic. A January 2022 poll of more than 1,200 parents with school-age children by EdChoice, a nonprofit advocating for school choice, found that 92 percent of parents with charter school students were satisfied with their children’s educations compared to the 76 percent of traditional public school parents who were satisfied.
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found privately managed charter schools in New York, California and Washington state were “very successful” at meeting students’ needs from the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 through June 2021. Similarly, a National Center for Education Statistics survey of more than 80,000 public- and private-school teachers and principals found, “Sixty-three percent of private-school teachers, during the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, reported using scheduled real-time lessons that allowed students to ask questions through a video or audio call” but just 47 percent of public-school teachers did the same.
The Biden administration’s proposal is also disappointing because it ignores the important role for-profit enterprises play in public education. Traditional public schools routinely use for-profit companies to provide students with transportation, technology, building management and much more. Although there have been some egregious examples of self-dealing in the for-profit charter school world, policymakers shouldn’t paint with too broad a brush. Some for-profit charter management organizations have produced impressive results for students.
“In the recent U.S. News & World Report Best High School rankings, four of the five top schools in the country are associated with a for-profit education company,” noted Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners.
Equally concerning is how Biden’s proposal would place new burdens on non-profit entities that want to use federal funds to open charter schools in their communities. To access federal funding under the proposed rule, nonprofits looking to establish a new charter school would need to create reports for the federal government proving there is a demand for a new school, detailing myriad ways the school plans to engage with the community, an in-depth analysis of neighborhood demographics, how the school plans to attract a racially diverse student body and staff, and more.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said Biden’s proposal “would create roadblocks that would make Charter Schools Program funds almost completely inaccessible — particularly to new schools in Black, Brown, rural or indigenous communities.”
In many communities, charter schools are basically privately managed public schools that are stepping up to give students better options. In the case of for-profit schools, ideally, they wouldn’t need federal funding at all, but the current education finance system is so dysfunctional that many do, and thus the administration’s targeting of them is misguided.
Across the country, parents are telling elected officials they need more education options for their children. Sadly, the Biden administration’s charter school rule would do the opposite, limiting education options for the communities that need them most.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, changes set to be approved May 26 would punish ‘malicious misgendering’ at the same level as assault and battery.
For those who scoff that Florida’s new education law bans “non-existent” gender indoctrination, let the tale of Fairfax County, Virginia serve as a wake-up call.
Fairfax County’s school board has long prided itself on leading the way for the nation in cutting-edge education policy and curriculum. As the tenth-largest district in the nation, it holds disproportionate sway over other school boards.
In 2015, the Fairfax school board blindsided parents with changes to its non-discrimination policy, followed by a sweeping expansion of the sex-ed curriculum and new rules governing student offenses and penalties. This is not an isolated policy. In Wisconsin, three middle-schoolers have been accused of “sexual harassment” for using biologically accurate pronouns to refer to a fellow student.
Fairfax’s proposed changes, set to be approved May 26, have hit a new low. Legally meaningless offenses such as “malicious misgendering” and “outing related to gender identification” would be now punishable by up to “Level 4” sanctions. It’s the last level before penalties for drug dealing, rape, and homicide.
Level 4 is the punishment meted out for assault and battery, drug consumption, theft, and arson. These penalties may be applied even to kindergarteners and include, at their worst, expulsion at the behest of the school board.
This barrage of ideological punishment is accompanied by the school board sex-ed committee’s latest, unanimous April 2022 vote to move instruction on gender identity down to elementary school. This puts the Fairfax school system entirely out of step with the Virginia State Standards of Learning on Family Life Education (sex ed).
But this is nothing new. In 2015 Fairfax school board proposed moving instruction on gender fluidity and identity down to middle school from high school, as well as sweeping expansions of the sex-ed curriculum on gender and sexuality. The board and superintendent claimed they were required to make these changes in order to align with new Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). When other mothers and I combed through the SOLs, we discovered this was a flat-out lie: there was not even a reference to these controversial new sexual concepts.
The Fairfax County School Board continued to steamroll families in 2018, when it voted against overwhelming community input to change the terminology of biological sex to “sex assigned at birth.” As I served on the sex-ed committee for more than years, I saw firsthand the determined effort to move teaching on sexuality to lower and lower grades, and to work around parents who might disagree—a trend mothers and fathers all over the nation are noting as well.
The 2019 blue wave in Virginia, when national LGBTQ advocacy groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the Victory Fund poured millions of dollars into our local races, resulted in further erosion of parental rights in Fairfax County. The new Transgender Policy (R2603.2) establishes a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary support and gender transition team for Fairfax County students.
This team can be formed and operate in secret, without the parents ever being made aware. The policy dictates that parents may be involved in a child’s gender transition team “if the student is willing.” It further stipulates that “a persistent refusal to use a student’s chosen name and pronouns constitutes discrimination”—again, a sanctionable offense for students and teachers alike.
At the state level, Fairfax ideologues are backstopped by their close ally in Richmond, the Senate Education Committee. Powerful members like state Sen. Janet Howell, who twice has used her election committee seat to gerrymander opponents out of her district during her campaigns, treat parents and students alike with staggering arrogance. The education committee is notorious as the graveyard of bills promoting curriculum transparency and accountability.
Taken as a whole, these actions and others by the Fairfax school board over the last several years constitute an ideological and dangerous overhaul of policy, curriculum, and standards that have little to no basis in law, but threaten very real harm to children. Two pending lawsuits in Virginia defending the rights of teachers are addressing these very questions of pronoun use.
But in the meantime, these actions by the Fairfax School Board have set the stage for children to be encouraged to transition in secret, and for children who might persist in using biologically accurate pronouns to be dealt criminal-level penalties.
For those who look at Florida and say “but no one is teaching these things in kindergarten,” let Fairfax be a cautionary tale. Our school board not only plans to teach them, but to expel the pint-size “criminals” who might resist.
Providing the option of small-scale customization to families who are happy with their public schools may be exactly the reform strategy the school choice movement has needed for decades.
In Michigan, thousands of state residents have signed a petition that would establish education savings accounts for students. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed similar legislation last year but if the petition makes it to the state ballot and passes this fall (and it is looking like it will), it would create one of the largest school choice programs in the country by commanding as much as $500 million in annual funding to provide flexible spending accounts for low-income and special needs students. Under the proposal, students could access $7,830 each year to pay for private school tuition and other customizable services such as tutoring or transportation.
But Michigan’s program wouldn’t just serve students who decide to leave their public school to homeschool or attend a private school. It would also make $500 available annually to qualifying students who remain in public schools and provide $1,100 annually for public school students with disabilities. While those amounts are only a fraction of the funds that would be available to students who withdraw from public school, it would be the first time a school choice proposal puts education dollars directly in the hands of students who remain in public schools.
This would be a big deal because granting the option of small-scale customization to families who are happy with their public schools may be exactly the reform strategy the school choice movement has needed for decades.
Opting out of a public school system to transfer to a private school is a big change for most families. Even with access to a publicly-funded private school scholarship, a change of that degree might not be worth it for families who are only somewhat unhappy with their public school. This reality can help to explain why private school choice programs have grown at a slow pace over the last few decades and why the U.S. spends less than 0.4 percent of public education funds on private school choice programs.
It should also be noted that most families are generally happy with their public schools. A 2021 Gallup Poll found that “73% of parents of school-aged children say they are satisfied with the quality of education their oldest child is receiving.” There simply isn’t enough dissatisfaction with the current system at this time to catalyze a large-scale shift away from traditional public schools and toward a customized, private sector-led education system.
Because of this, school choice proponents need policy solutions that meet most families where they are, something Michigan may be on the cusp of accomplishing with its education savings account (ESA) for public school students.
Most families might not be ready to leave the public K-12 system, but they would be excited for a chance to customize on the margins. While many parents can’t imagine curating their child’s entire curriculum, they can certainly envision the benefits of having some funds to pay for an SAT tutor, enroll their student in a financial literacy course at a community college, or buy them a laptop.
This incremental step can introduce education choice to a large swath of previously unreached public-school families, whetting their appetites for more customization. And while there are already programs in other states that resemble something like a public school ESA, Michigan would build on these programs by providing public school students with even more flexibility over how they can use their funds.
For more than 20 years, the private school choice movement has focused on bringing a lot of choice to a relatively small contingent of families lucky enough to have access to vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and ESAs. Maybe it’s time for school choice proponents to consider Michigan’s approach of also giving a taste of choice to the majority of families who, understandably, aren’t ready to leave their traditional public schools.
Florida’s parental rights law has leftists up against a wall, and their methods for coping are getting stranger every day.
The perpetually miserable left has apparently reached the “acceptance” stage of grieving over Florida’s new parental rights law, but their funny hysteria is still the same.
Within the last week, The Washington Post ran two articles offering the same idea for “queer” and transgender leftists who hate the legislation: sue teachers who acknowledge biological reality!
That’s a serious proposal from the Post’s Kate Cohen, who wrote on April 15, “What if we took these laws at their word and treated every lesson that endorsed any sexual orientation or gender schema as an actionable offense?”
“What if we filed a complaint every time a teacher instructed our children to use certain bathrooms solely on the basis of their gender identity?” she continued. “What if we called a lawyer when we discovered our children were learning that the ‘mommies on the bus’ said ‘shush, shush, shush’”?
Similarly, Cohen’s colleague Greg Sargent wrote Monday that “the law’s vagueness might end up handing opponents a hidden weapon against it.” That weapon, he said, is that the law allows parents to bring lawsuits “against references to heterosexuality or cisgenderism.”
Gay and transgender activist groups are already taking legal action against the law, claiming it’s discriminatory and in violation of the First Amendment. I have no idea how that will turn out, but I do know that Cohen and Sargent are either mentally slow or willfully ignorant.
The law in no way bans references by school personnel or students to gender, sex, or even sexual orientation. The children are, in fact, not regulated at all. What the law says — at least the part that has frustrated so many leftists — is that classroom “instruction” in grades kindergarten through three should exclude “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
A person would have to either be dumb or pretend to be dumb in order to not know what that means. And, contrary to what the left insists, biological differences between males and females exist, regardless of how anyone feels.
Instructing children to use the restroom corresponding with their biology isn’t a matter of orientation or identity. It’s a matter of science.
Likewise, acknowledging that women have babies or that mothers and fathers exist isn’t some type of weird theory. It’s reality.
True, some children are raised by two men or two women. A male teacher might be married to another man. Recognizing those truths is not under duress.
So, while a lawsuit brought against a teacher who says the word “mother” is possible — anyone can be sued for anything — the left should be prepared for a sane judge to laugh them out of court for bothering.
I get it. A lot of Floridian teachers are mad that they can no longer giddily talk with seven-year-olds about what it means to be “trans fem” or instill in children that “boy parts” and “girl parts” are irrelevant. (There’s a word for people who fancy chatting with kids about such things… I’ll think of it later.) But that’s not the same thing as identifying a pregnant woman, or recognizing aloud that Jane has two dads.
The law has them up against a wall, and their methods for coping are getting stranger every day.
A significant portion of the $751.7 billion spent annually on K–12 education is used to purchase non-public goods and services.
In a recent tweet, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project, recycled a common refrain against school-choice programs, noting that “they funnel public dollars into privately run institutions.” Similar talking points are being used in Michigan, Texas, and other states to block policies that give families access to their students’ education dollars and more opportunities for their kids.
This argument is misguided and ignores the fact that public education wouldn’t exist without the private sector. The reality is that much of the $751.7 billion spent annually on K–12 education is used to purchase non-public goods and services.
The wheels of commerce are spinning well before the morning bell rings, with public schools spending over $27 billion annually on transportation services. Manufacturers such as Blue Bird — a publicly traded company that recorded $1.019 billion of sales in 2019 — supply the nation’s 480,000 yellow buses, and about one-third of school districts outsource bus services to private contractors, saving public schools millions of dollars each year.
Without these companies, millions of students would be stuck at home, but that’s only the start. School districts also partner with private entities to build the schools, playgrounds, and athletics facilities they rely on each day.
Nationwide, spending on capital consumes roughly 10 percent of all K–12 education dollars each year, totaling $76.3 billion in 2019 alone. Districts finance much of this spending by issuing municipal bonds, which require private-sector assistance from investment banks, attorneys, and ratings agencies and are purchased by investors such as money managers and insurance companies.
For their part, public-school advocates — including teachers’ unions and other school-choice opponents — almost always support bond referenda, despite the cadre of private actors that profit from them.
Once bonds are approved, school districts hire architecture, engineering, and construction companies to do the work. For example, construction giant Balfour Beatty contracts with districts across the country from Texas to California and has completed over $500 million in projects for the public schools in Wake County, N.C., alone.
Inside classrooms, a similar story unfolds. While nearly half of all education dollars are spent on employee salaries, benefit expenditures for things such as pensions and health insurance account for 21 percent of spending. This includes teacher retirement contributions that are made each year to massive pension funds that invest in equities, real estate, and other financial vehicles that help fund managers diversify risk and hit performance targets. Teachers have a vested interest in U.S. economic growth and benefit from the success of corporate giants such as ExxonMobil, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway.
Schools are also increasingly reliant on technology companies to supply computers, tablets, and software solutions that support instruction, and it’s estimated that $26 billion to $41 billion is spent each year on education tech. Similarly, states depend on private firms to administer statewide exams, such as the $388 million in contracts Texas awarded to Pearson and Cambium Assessment.
In some cases, school districts even pay private-school tuition for students they can’t serve. The National Association of State Directors of Special Education says that about 1.5 percent of public-school students with disabilities are placed by their districts into private schools. This practice helps families obtain specialized services and means that public-school districts are already doing exactly what school-choice opponents fight against — sending public dollars to private schools. The only difference is that district bureaucrats, not parents, are the ones calling the shots.
Of course, not all these examples of private-sector partnerships are wise investments or the best use of scarce resources. After all, K–12 transportation is in desperate need of reform, and construction projects can be wasteful. The real issue that opponents such as Hannah-Jones have with school choice isn’t with public dollars going to the private sector, but with competition for students and their per-pupil funding. The public-school monopoly gets weaker when parents can access their education dollars and use them for the private services that they choose, and that’s a good thing.
First school shooting in Montgomery County history follows vote to remove police from school buildings
Maryland’s Montgomery County became the latest Democrat-run jurisdiction to reverse its decision to remove police officers from schools after it suffered the first school shooting in the county’s history last week, in which a 15-year-old boy was shot last Friday by a classmate.
The district announced on Monday after the shooting that police would temporarily return to every high school in the county, a reversal of a March 2021 decision by county lawmakers to yank funding from its longstanding School Resource Officer program. The lawmakers voted to replace in-school law enforcement with mental health resources, including 50 new social workers and 40 restorative justice training sessions in the county. The shift was designed to keep students “safe, holistically,” according to Montgomery councilman Will Jawando.
But the mental health measures proved ineffective last Friday, when 17-year-old Steven Alston Jr. shot his classmate in a school bathroom at Magruder High School. Law enforcement wasn’t notified about the shooting until the victim was discovered between class periods and brought to the school nurse. When police arrived at the school, they found the shooter in a classroom with his gun, which he had disassembled, and a magazine holding nine rounds of ammunition. The shooter’s classmate remains in the hospital in critical condition.
“This was deeply felt across the entire system—and it was a wake up call on a number of different levels,” Montgomery councilman Gabe Albornoz, a Democrat, told the Washington Free Beacon. “This was the first time there had been a gun incident where a gun was fired within a school during the school day in the history of our school system.”
St. Mary’s County sheriff Tim Cameron told the Free Beacon that his county’s School Resource Officer program, virtually identical to the program Montgomery County scrapped, is an important component of safety and security in schools.
“The idea of the SRO is to prevent the event from ever happening—to stop the event before it actually occurs,” Cameron said. “I can’t say what would’ve happened, but I sure would have liked to have the opportunity for an SRO to have been in that school and perhaps prevented that.”
Following anti-police protests that swept the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Montgomery County and more than 50 school districts nationwide dumped police programs. Montgomery is not the first to realize the decision put students at risk.
Last fall lawmakers in Alexandria, Va., held an emergency session after a string of violent incidents at the start of the school year. The public school system voted to reinstate armed officers after a student brought a loaded gun into Alexandria City High School. And Milwaukee Public Schools unanimously blocked officers from patrolling campuses in June 2020—but in the first eight weeks of the following school year, administrators called police more than 200 times.
Clyde Boatwright, the president of Maryland’s Fraternal Order of Police, told the Free Beacon that SROs are necessary to keep students safe. Without them, “gangs will be prevalent, assaults will be prevalent, and then there’s going to be a rush to try to insert officers back in the building to stabilize the building.”
“Just the mere presence of a police officer deters a lot of crime,” Boatwright said.
Albornoz said now there is growing support in his county for reinstating the SRO program.
“There’s no question that there’s an interest, especially in the short-term, in having more police presence,” Albornoz said. “And there are conversations going on right now in meetings being held between law enforcement, schools, health and human services, and key partners and stakeholders to determine whether or not there should be a police presence beyond just these two weeks as well.”
Boatwright said activists pushing to remove police from schools are acting against the interest of the majority.
“The loud minority should not have a say that directly affects the greater majority of people who actually want safe schools,” Boatwright said.
The Democrat is running against Trump while Virginia voters worry about the education of their kids.
When Terry McAuliffe won the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia, he probably expected to defeat Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin without breaking a sweat. McAuliffe is a former Virginia governor with decades of political experience and countless connections. Youngkin began the race with little political experience and less name recognition. Yet McAuliffe clearly is sweating the gubernatorial race, and for good reason. The polls show Youngkin surging to a tie with him and suggest that the Republican is making inroads among crucial voter blocs whose support McAuliffe can’t afford to lose. According to a Monmouth University poll published October 20, for example, Youngkin has gained considerable support among independents and women:
The biggest swing in support from Monmouth’s last poll comes from independent voters, registering a 48% to 39% lead for Youngkin now compared with a 37% to 46% deficit in September. Youngkin has also cut into McAuliffe’s advantage with women voters. The Democrat currently has a narrow edge among women (47% to 43%), down from a sizable 14-point lead last month (52% to 38%).
In addition, Republicans are far more engaged and are widening their enthusiasm advantage:
This metric stood at a 13-point Republican advantage in prior polls — 34% GOP to 21% Democrat in August and 44% to 31% in September. That disparity has grown to a 23-point chasm in the current poll — 49% GOP to 26% Democrat.
These numbers clearly indicate that Youngkin enjoys growing momentum at a point in the race when McAuliffe has little time to turn the tide. Normally, the presence of a recently-elected Democrat in the White House could offer some assistance, but President Biden’s approval numbers are underwater by nearly 10 points according to the RealClearPolitics average. If Biden campaigns for McAuliffe next week it will likely depress Democratic enthusiasm. Nor is it helpful that the only black politician ever elected governor in Virginia, Douglas Wilder, has chastised the McAuliffe campaign for illegally playing an electioneering ad featuring Vice President Harris in black churches. The Washington Examiner reports that Wilder said, “If this is legal, then it’s surprising to me.”
Former president Obama has also cut an ad for McAuliffe in addition to campaigning with him on Saturday. Even if this increases the number of votes McAuliffe receives, it’s unlikely to be enough to offset his politically untenable position on public education. His campaign has failed to overcome the ill will he created among voters by declaring, during the final gubernatorial debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” McAuliffe has attempted to spin his way out of that blunder, but the voters are just not able to unhear that startling assertion. He is now trying to change the subject to … Trump. In a recent interview with WJLA 7News he responded to a question about the proper role of parents in education with a 237-word periphrasis ending thus:
Glenn Youngkin has a Donald Trump Betsey DeVos plan. He has said publicly many times he will take money out of public schools and put them into private. The Washington Post just did an editorial and three independent reviews have been done on Glenn’s plan: 43,000 teachers will be cut in Virginia.
WJLA reporter Nick Minock put this to Youngkin who dismissed it as a sign of desperation:
I believe Terry McAuliffe is doing what you would expect from a 43-year career political operative when he sees the race slipping away is he doesn’t want to run against me. He wants to do anything he can to change this to a race against somebody else. And the reality is that it’s Glenn Youngkin on the ballot.
This description of McAuliffe’s campaign is all too accurate. During one 12-minute CNN interview conducted on October 10, he mentioned former President Trump no fewer than 18 times. This got so awkward that host Dana Bash joked, “I’m glad I have two cups [of coffee] here, so I can keep drinking when you mention Donald Trump’s name.” He rarely makes a speech without calling Glenn Youngkin “a Trump wannabe.” And, when asked about his controversial contention that parents should not tell schools what to teach, he invariably avoids answering the question by reciting the conspiracy theory about Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos. This makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that Youngkin is correct about McAuliffe’s increasing desperation.
Perhaps the most embarrassingly desperate act of the McAuliffe campaign, however, was its ridiculous attempt to smear Youngkin as a sleazy showbiz crook who somehow bilked singer Taylor Swift. The Daily Beast informs us that the McAuliffe campaign actually invested in a series of digital ads on Facebook in which the Democratic gubernatorial candidate asks, “Did you know that Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, helped buy Taylor Swift’s masters out from under her when he was co-CEO of the Carlyle Group?” This blockbuster revelation, in the unlikely event that it is true, presumably sewed up the Taylor Swift constituency. It isn’t clear, however, that this burning issue will be enough to get McAuliffe over the top in the Old Dominion.
In the end, McAuliffe’s last best hope is that the federal bureaucrats who have colonized northern Virginia will vote in large enough numbers to save him. That’s how he won in 2013. In 2021, however, those voters have something in common with Youngkin’s supporters — they are parents who want their children educated rather than indoctrinated. Moreover, many of the school board protests that have made national news occurred in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in northern Virginia. Most of those protests have been against the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools. Glenn Youngkin has pledged to ban the teaching of CRT on his first day in office if elected governor.
A Fox News poll published on October 14 found that a 57 percent of Virginia’s parents believe they should tell schools what to teach, and that only 40 percent of likely voters agree with McAuliffe’s stated position. If these numbers accurately reflect the attitude of the Commonwealth’s voters, particularly as they relate to those residing in the state’s northern counties, it is entirely possible that Virginia is about to send former Gov. McAuliffe and the Democratic Party in general to school.
And the need for a conservative education agenda
A single exchange may decide the Virginia governor’s race. At one point during a September 28 debate, Republican Glenn Youngkin slammed his opponent, former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe, for vetoing a 2017 bill that would have allowed parents to remove their children from courses studying sexually explicit material. McAuliffe shrugged off the criticism. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he said.
If you live in Virginia, as I do, then you have heard McAuliffe saying those words approximately a gazillion times on television, where they are replayed ad nauseam in one of Youngkin’s most effective attack ads. The former Carlyle Group executive and political newcomer clearly believes that grassroots outrage at the educational system will provide him the winning margin in what is now a tossup election. On the banner of Youngkin’s website is a tab that reads “Parents Matter.” Among the items in his “day one game plan” is a promise to ban instruction in “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). “This is no longer a campaign,” Youngkin recently told a crowd in Winchester, Va., according to the New York Times. “This is a movement. It’s a movement led by parents.”
It sure is. The question is where the movement is going. So far, the revolt over politically correct and anti-American curricula has produced more heat than light. Loudoun County, Va., the epicenter of this latest populist rebellion, has become a stand-in for national polarization and tribalism, as the left-leaning school board engages in bitter fights with well-organized parents. Several states already have banned CRT, including materials based on the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” a factitious revision of U.S. history whose absurd premise is that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery. Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s politicized Justice Department has promised to investigate threats against school boards and educators. No one seems able to agree on what, exactly, CRT is, but that doesn’t really matter for either side. What matters is the fight.
If it propels Youngkin to Richmond, then, the debate over education may end up looking like a wasted opportunity, a moment for serious thought and policy creativity that was frittered away in exercises of mutual fear, loathing, and contempt. For example: Even if we can agree on a definition of CRT that doesn’t inadvertently include fair-minded social studies in slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement, expunging this balkanizing and corrosive ideology from schools is just a first step. There is more to be done.
Yet the rest of Youngkin’s education platform is vague. It includes keeping schools open, “Restoring High Expectations & Getting Every Student College or Career Ready,” “Rebuilding Crumbling Schools, Raising Teacher Pay, & Investing in Special Education Programs,” and “Creating at least 20 New Innovation Charter Schools across the K-12 Spectrum to Provide Choice.” In a July speech, Youngkin pledged to retain advanced math courses and reimpose pre-McAuliffe standards.
This smallball is not new. Of the four character-shaping institutions of family, faith, neighborhood, and school, conservatives have had the least to say about education. They lament its sorry state. They say it is not a federal responsibility even though the Department of Education remains standing after both Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich vowed to eliminate it, and no one calls for the repeal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. They rightfully and productively expand homeschooling and school choice, without paying close enough attention to the 90 percent of students who attend some 100,000 K-12 public schools across the country. They somewhat reluctantly went along with George W. Bush’s efforts to impose school standards in the 2000s but did not know where to turn after the collapse of the test-based accountability model of education reform.
Former secretary of education William J. Bennett often speaks of the “three Cs”: choice, content, and character. The Youngkin plan gestures toward choice, issues vague calls for less politicized, more rigorous content, and overlooks character entirely. This final omission is a shame because, in its malign and counterproductive way, CRT or “antiracist” curriculum is itself a form of character education.
Progressives have long treated the public school as the place where children receive the knowledge, traits, and habits necessary for life in a modern democracy. Today, in the worldview of the education establishment—what Bennett calls “the Blob”—that means teaching to the lowest common denominator and avoiding or downplaying assessments under which some students fall short. It means inducing feelings, depending on the student, of shame or self-esteem. It means reducing individuals to physical characteristics, fostering the idea that these characteristics determine most if not all life outcomes, and dividing the world between oppressor and oppressed. Is it any wonder that the institutions premised on such ideas tend to mold individuals with guilt-ridden, suspicious, agonistic, fragile characters who can’t read or write or perform basic math?
Ambitious conservatives have to think bigger. Try improving teacher quality through licensing reform. Charter schools can be excellent, but what about incentivizing learning pods and investing heavily in Career and Technical Education? Last year, my American Enterprise Institute colleague Frederick M. Hess sketched out a fulsome education agenda in the pages of National Affairs. The ideas are there. Someone needs to pick them up.
And soon. In the absence of leadership that provides alternatives to liberal programs, conservatives assume a negative attitude and defensive crouch on issue after issue. Education is no exception. Progressive outrages spawn populist backlashes that may block the most egregious initiatives and embarrass their most radical proponents, but in the end not much changes. Why? Because conservatives are unable to agree on specific and lasting measures to reshape the institutional structure in ways that improve social conditions and restore civil peace. This isn’t conjecture. This is the failure to repeal Obamacare in 2017.
“A populist upsurge always points to very real problems that ought to be on our political agenda,” wrote Irving Kristol in 1972. “But populism itself usually misperceives these problems, and the solutions it proposes are, more often than not, illusory.” It would be a partial and ultimately unsatisfactory outcome if the parental revolt over the high-handedness and lunatic wokism of the educational system exhausts itself, like the Tea Party movement of the 2010s, in a combination of electoral victory and policy defeat. Time for Glenn Youngkin to hit the books.
Former governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill to block sexually explicit books from schools
Independent Women’s Voice, a Virginia conservative women’s advocacy group, created the ad and bought airtime late at night to reveal the existence of the books. They were rebuffed, however, from airing the ad by ABC, CBS, and NBC. The networks said federal law prohibits them from showing pornographic images. But the books, which have pornographic images and descriptions of sex and pedophilia, are still available in school libraries
The battle between parents and public schools over curricula has been a fraught issue in the nation, particularly so in Virginia during the gubernatorial election. Critics have attacked Democratic candidate and former governor Terry McAuliffe for permitting sexually explicit material in schools and calling parents’ concerns over the teaching of critical race theory a “racist dog whistle.”
Parents have expressed outrage at the permissive stance that the state, its school board, and localities have taken on pornographic reading material in schools. In September, a Virginia mom confronted the Fairfax County School Board for allowing pornographic books in school libraries. She read excerpts and showed pictures from the books, one of which showed a fourth-grade boy performing oral sex on a grown man.
The board later removed the books from the school system pending a thorough review. But the books, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, are still available in school catalogs in neighboring counties such as Loudoun County, Arlington County, Alexandria County, and Montgomery County, Md.
McAuliffe in 2016 vetoed a bill that would have prevented students from having to see such sexually explicit material in schools. The so-called Beloved bill, which was named after a parent objected to sexually explicit content in the eponymous novel by Toni Morrison, would have allowed parents to review and opt out of engaging with sexually explicit books that might be shown to their children.
McAuliffe at the time called the bill “unnecessary” and said the matter would be resolved by the Virginia Board of Education. In 2017, however, the state board rejected a similar proposal to allow students to opt out of engaging with sexually explicit reading material.
When asked during a recent gubernatorial debate about vetoing the bill, McAuliffe defended his decision and said parents shouldn’t have the final say about what reading materials are allowed in schools.
“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said. “So, yeah, I stopped the bill. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Victoria Coley, the vice president of communications at Independent Women’s Voice, called the existence of federally prohibited pornography on school bookshelves “shocking.”
In the late spring, as coronavirus cases in the U.S. were trending way down and vaccination rates were trending up, Dr. Lucy McBride and three of her colleagues authored an optimistic Washington Post op-ed with a clear and straightforward message: “It’s time for children to finally get back to normal life.”
The risk to children was too low to justify burdensome restrictions over the summer. And when school begins, kids should return “without masks and regardless of their vaccination status,” the four doctors wrote. “Even small steps toward normality can have a large impact on a child.”
After more than a year of confusion, fear, death, school closures, and mask mandates, here, finally, was a group of respected doctors, writing in one of the nation’s most respected newspapers, that the time had come for kids to get back to just being kids, no masks required.
Fast-forward three months: The highly contagious Delta variant is surging, particularly in hot Southern states and in states with low vaccination rates. Intensive-care units are overflowing, and COVID-19-associated hospitalizations of kids and teenagers are at an all-time high. Virus-related deaths are rising again.
And with the change in conditions, McBride’s messaging has changed along with it.
“Right now, with Delta running roughshod through the country, I think it’s appropriate for unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission is high,” McBride, a Harvard-trained physician and practicing Washington, D.C., internist, told National Review. “I would want to mask my unvaccinated child in a state like Mississippi or Florida at this moment.”
This latest coronavirus surge began in the weeks before schools reopened in many states, leading to statehouse fights and heated school-board debates over mask mandates and parental freedom.
In Florida, the school boards in at least five counties have voted to defy governor Ron DeSantis’s order, which empowers parents to decide if they want their kids to be masked in school. In Hillsborough County, more than 10,000 students and 300 school staff members were quarantined last week. Earlier in the month, before classes resumed, three unvaccinated Broward County teachers died in a 24-hour span. DeSantis has questioned the effectiveness of mask mandates in schools, saying, “There’s not much science behind it.”
In Mississippi, 13-year-old Mkayla Robinson died of coronavirus complications in mid-August after attending eighth grade for a week at a school where masks weren’t required. It’s unclear if the teen contracted the virus at school. Her mother told a local TV station that Mkayla was a healthy kid with no pre-existing illnesses. Mkayla’s death came on the heels of 16-year-old Jenna Lyn Jeansonne’s death in the state in late July.
Some Mississippi schools already have reverted to virtual learning because of COVID outbreaks. Only 36 percent of eligible Mississippians are vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country.
The Delta surge has left parents confused, and it has scrambled the way many of them are thinking about how they should protect their families.
The Delta surge also has led to a renewed debate in the medical community about just how effective a COVID-19 mitigation effort masks really are for kids, with some doctors saying there isn’t enough science to back universal mandates in schools, and arguing that for some kids the masks may do more harm than good. Other medical professionals argue that the protection that masks provide — however small — far outweighs their downsides.
“People have very strongly held opinions on masks and children with very little information,” Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told National Review. The effectiveness of masks on children has been woefully understudied, so most of what we know about the benefits for kids is extrapolated from adults, Makary said.
In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools, recommending that all adults and children wear makes indoors. The CDC reports that multi-layered cloth masks can block up to 80 percent of respiratory droplets. A recent Duke University study found that widespread mask use in schools can effectively prevent COVID transmission.
But a New York Times Magazine article published on Friday noted that a groundbreaking CDC study published in May found no statistically significant benefit from requiring students to wear masks. The Times article also criticized the Duke study for not using a comparison group of unmasked students, making it impossible to isolate the effects of masks. A National Institutes of Health review last year found that cloth masks have limited efficacy in preventing viral infections, depending on the materials used, the number of layers, and how the mask fits.
Many European countries, including the U.K., France, Switzerland, and all of Scandinavia, have exempted children from wearing masks in classrooms, with no evidence of more outbreaks in those schools compared with U.S. schools where masks were required last year, the Times reports.
Makary recently co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed that ran under the headline “The Case Against Masks for Children.” But Makary said the headline is not exactly representative of his position. He is not an opponent of masks for children generally. He’s been an advocate of most people wearing masks since the beginning of the pandemic. As a surgeon, he wears a mask.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“Masks reduce transmission, and I believe even the very flimsy, low-value cloth masks do something for kids,” he said. “I would say that wearing them in an area of an active outbreak is a good idea, even though the benefit may be minimal.”
But children are not homogenous. Some live with adults who are vaccinated, some don’t. Some live in communities where major outbreaks are occurring, some don’t.
Makary’s concern is for kids who legitimately struggle with masks: kids with physical and cognitive disabilities, kids with myopia whose glasses get fogged when they’re masked, kids with severe acne, kids with anxiety and depression from wearing masks, kids with hearing impairments or issues with phonetic development. He worries that covering the faces of children, particularly young kids and children with disabilities, could lead to developmental delays.
In some cases, the risk-to-benefit ratio falls on the side of a child not wearing a mask, he said.
In terms of effective mitigation measures to protect kids from the virus, masks are pretty far down on the list, behind vaccinating adults and teens, ventilation, social distancing, podding kids in school, and hygiene, Makary said.
“So, we have had this massive culture war over maybe what’s the sixth mitigation step, which has a small impact if any, and has not been formally studied,” he said.
Most kids who contract COVID-19 manifest with mild symptoms, and often no symptoms at all. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been fewer than 500 deaths involving children under 18, out of more than 600,000 total deaths nationwide, according to CDC data. For the week of July 31, the rate of hospitalization with COVID of children five to 17 was 0.5 per 100,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. A study of children and young people in England found kids generally have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID than even vaccinated 30-year-olds. But children are making up a growing share of serious COVID cases now.
“A percentage of a larger number is a larger number,” said Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, a pediatric disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and an advocate for universal masking in schools. There are concerns for kids besides just death from COVID, she said.
As of July 30, the CDC reported that more than 4,400 children in the U.S. have contracted post-COVID Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, a potentially lethal condition that causes parts of the body — including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and eyes — to become inflamed. And Hobbs noted the long-term effects of COVID still are not well understood, though a large British study published this month found that only about 4.4 percent of infected kids had symptoms for longer than 28 days, with the most common symptoms being fatigue, headaches, and loss of smell. Less than 2 percent had any symptoms after 56 days.
Because kids under 12 aren’t eligible for a vaccine, adults need to do everything they can to protect them, including getting vaccinated and supporting masks in schools, she said.
Some people who got vaccinated earlier in the year and thought they could put away their masks for good are having second thoughts amid the Delta-variant surge.
Jeff Navarro, 68, who has twin 16-year-old sons in high school in Amory, Miss., was looking forward to life without masks, after he, his wife, and his kids all got vaccinated. But as an older parent, Delta has him worried, and he supports the mask mandate his school district imposed.
“I’ve learned at 68 years old that no one is bulletproof,” he said. “I take it seriously. I follow the science. I certainly do not understand it enough to dispute it; therefore, I have to accept it.”
Sean Kruer, a father of two young children in Huntsville, Ala., has been a strong supporter of a school mask mandate in his community. He and his wife had serious discussions about pulling their kids out of school if there was no masking requirement.
“From a public-health policy perspective, universal mask mandates absolutely make sense,” Kruer said. “So, as much as I understand that it would be nice if things had continued the way that it looked like they might in May, that’s not the reality. And continuing as if it were and being petulant about it isn’t helping anybody.”
Melissa Bernhardt, the mother of a high-school student and an elementary-school student in Jacksonville, Fla., said she questions the science around masks. She’s not against people wearing masks, she said, but she doesn’t believe they should be forced on all kids.
She described one of her sons as particularly high energy, but she said he became lethargic and fatigued during school last year. She believes it’s because he had to wear a mask.
Bernhardt’s kids attend private school because she thought they wouldn’t impose a mask requirement. But, she said, she was wrong.
“The private schools really disappointed me,” she said. “They have committees with doctors, and all the doctors that are on the committees are not only pro-mask, they’re pro-vaccine.”
Bernhardt declined to discuss her vaccination status, but she said she feels protected because she contracted COVID early in the pandemic and has antibodies.
Hobbs said that even though kids don’t frequently get as sick from COVID as adults, “they can and they do, and we’ve had kids who have died. . . . Any pediatric death in my mind is one too many, especially when we know that this is preventable. We have a vaccine for those who are eligible, and we know that masking works.”
McBride, the D.C. internist, said parents need to know that there is an off-ramp down the road. She believes the CDC and other public-health agencies need to offer clear metrics about when schools can start rolling back mitigation efforts, including mask mandates.
“After all, COVID-19 isn’t going away. It’s going to be an endemic virus, and we know that there are enormous downsides (of pandemic restrictions, particularly) for kids,” she said. “We can’t mask indefinitely, nor should we.”
Hobbs said it’s too soon to say when that off-ramp will arrive. No one predicted the emergence of the hyper-transmissible Delta variant six months ago, and no one knows what variants will emerge in the future amid a backdrop of unvaccinated populations. Only 51 percent of Americans of all ages are fully vaccinated, including people not eligible for the vaccine.
“Until we basically have all of those eligible to get vaccinated vaccinated, it is most likely that we will not see the end of this anytime soon,” she said. “In the absence of people getting vaccinated and doing what they can to mitigate the spread of the virus, which itself will lead to continued emergence of new variants, then I don’t know what the end of this road will be.”
Parents are entitled to worry about the virus, McBride said. “It’s how we survive,” she said. “But we also have to acknowledge that worry can take on a life of its own and cause its own problems. I think it’s a very hard time for everyone.”
Now more than ever, she said, it’s important for people to have a trusted pediatrician or family doctor to help them take public-health advice and make nuanced personal health decisions.
“There’s no way the CDC can possibly speak to every individual,” she said.
The mask debate, she said, has become divisive and political. McBride agrees with Hobbs and Makary that the most important thing adults can do at the moment to protect kids is to trust the science, listen to their doctors, and get vaccinated.
“What we really need to be doing,” McBride said, “is getting dose one into people who are unvaccinated.”
Over the last year, teachers and administrators nationwide have weaponized K-12 education, injecting progressive politics into classrooms, and indoctrinating students with novel social justice dogma, including theories that call for racialized curriculums and reverse discrimination to achieve racial equity.
Mainstream media outlets and left-wing commentators have accused conservatives of demonizingcritical race theory, and turning an obscure academic theory into a rightwing “bogeyman.” But there sure are a lot of examples of it turning up in schools across the country, from big city Democratic strongholds to suburban districts in red America. The following are summaries of just a small number of the fights that have erupted in the last year.
Princeton Offering ‘#Black Lives Matter’ Class Taught By CRT Advocate
Princeton University is offering a “#BlackLivesMatter” course this fall, where students can learn about the “historical roots and growth” of the “social movement” from a professor with a “commitment” to critical race theory.
The class, first reported by The College Fix, includes readings from former Black Panther member Angela Davis, a two-time vice-presidential candidate of the Communist Party who once made the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
The course description says the class “seeks to document the forms of dispossession that Black Americans face, and offers a critical examination of the prison industrial complex, police brutality, urban poverty, and white supremacy in the US.”
It says the Black Lives Matter movement and the course are “committed to resisting, unveiling, and undoing histories of state sanctioned violence against Black and Brown bodies.”
The course will be taught by professor Hanna Garth, who has described herself as a person who is “broadly interested in the ways in which people struggle to overcome structural violence.”
“All of my research, teaching, and mentoring is designed around my commitment to feminist methodologies and critical race theory,” Garth writes on her personal website.
She has previously taught courses including “Race and Racisms,” “Postcolonial and Decolonial Theory,” and “Theories of Social Justice.”
Fairfax County Schools Sent Second Graders a Video Vilifying Police: ‘I Feel Safe When There Are No Police’
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) sent second-graders a “summer learning guide” in July which included a Youtube video titled “Woke Kindergarten” that vilified the police.
Centered around the importance of “feeling safe,” the video, which was obtained by Parents Defending Education, presents a slideshow of photos featuring groups of young African Americans, some of whom are holding Black Lives Matter signs.
“We deserve to feel safe in our homes… I feel safe when there are no police. And it’s no one’s job to tell me how I feel. But it’s everyone’s job to make sure that people who are being treated unfairly……feel safe too,” a narrator says.
The “suggested texts” section of the summer learning guide also recommends students listen to “Good Trouble by Ki,” which instructs students on the merits of civil disobedience.
The narrator of another video, intended for seven-year-olds, tells students, “sometimes it’s good to get into trouble.” The video also presents a sequence of photos depicting social justice demonstrations, some from the modern day and some taken during the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.
In a reference to Representative John Lewis’ 2020 speech in Selma, Alabama commemorating Bloody Sunday, the video adds, “John Lewis was a freedom fighter who got in a lot of good trouble.”
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America,” Lewis declared at the 2020 event.
Over the last year, the Fairfax school system has become a notorious hotbed for many of the progressive developments taking root in public K-12 education across the country. Teachers have been instructed to use students preferred pronouns and an aggressive form of diversity, equity, and inclusion curricula has taken hold. Teachers in the district have also resisted efforts to return to in-person learning.
On the radicalized curriculum front, prominent journalist Asra Nomani criticized the district’s decision to change a rule guiding how contentious topics are discussed in the classroom.
The district leaders announced they would be “revising the existing Controversial Issues Policy and developing a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.”
Nomani told National Review that she believes the curriculum revision is laying the foundation for progressive activists to impose “anti-racist” indoctrination and critical race theory on students.
Teachers’ Union Sues Rhode Island Mother for Over-Requesting Public Records on CRT in School District
Nicole Solas, a mother of a kindergartner in South Kingston, R.I., was sued by a powerful teachers’ union earlier this week after she requested documents surrounding the teaching of Critical Race Theory and related concepts at her daughter’s public school.
After hearing reports that teachers refused to address students as “boys” and “girls,” Solas grew concerned that progressive indoctrination was infiltrating her child’s classroom.
Denied both a tour of the elementary school and an un-redacted copy of its curriculum, Solas identified an avenue to inquire directly about the district’s social justice agenda without incurring the exorbitant cost many parents confront just to gain access to information about their children’s schooling.
In July, The Goldwater Institute filed a public records request on Solas behalf, resulting in her receiving a $74,000 bill to fulfill it, according to The Goldwater Institute.
To avoid paying thousands of dollars, Solas submitted over 160 specific public records requests, narrowing the scope to six months and requesting digital rather than hard copies, to investigate the school district’s plans to introduce critical race theory and other equity and inclusion initiatives, GoLocalProv reported.
Among the records Solas requested were documents pertaining to the influence of the AFL-CIO and NEA unions and teacher discipline and performance, as well as emails sent by various district administrators over the last six months, according to the lawsuit.
To justify the legality of filing so many records requests at once, Solas cited a provision in the state Access to Public Records Act (APRA) law, which holds that “[M]ultiple requests from any person or entity to the same public body within a thirty (30) day time period shall be considered one request,” according to her own account.
But the local branch of the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the country, sued Solas alleging that she unfairly inundated the district with solicitations for documents, some of which are obscure items that do not constitute public records.
The lawsuit’s declaratory judgement reads, “The APRA system is not an alternative to the civil discovery process and is not to be used for abusive purposes or a fishing expedition – it was not intended to ’empower the press and the public with carte blanche to demand all records held by public agencies.”
The South Kingston School Committee subsequently hosted a public meeting, listing “filing lawsuit against Nicole Solas to challenge filing of over 160 APRA requests” as a major agenda item. Solas contended that such a meeting was designed to pressure her to prove the case for her requests or threaten her with litigation, in violation of the APRA law, which prohibits a government body from compelling a citizen to explain requests for public records.
Represented by a legal team from The Goldwater Institute, Solas intends to fight the NEA’s challenge in court to defend parents’ right and entitlement to obtain knowledge about their kids’ education and school system.
Two Moms Fought against Left-Wing Indoctrination. Their Kids Paid the Price
Two moms decided to push back when their kids’ elite private school, the Columbus Academy, sent home a “Justice in June” email announcing a series of new diversity and equity initiatives.
The email included a list of daily activities that read like a progressive wish list. Read about white privilege, the 1619 Project, and the case for reparations? Check. Donate money to progressive organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the Southern Poverty Law Center? Check. Advocate to reallocate city budgets by defunding the police? Check.
When the moms, Andrea Gross and Amy Gonzalez, began organizing fellow concerned parents and publicly criticizing the school’s new progressive orientation, it was their kids who paid the price; they were expelled.
Teachers, CRT Advocate Plotted to Keep Parents in the Dark About Social Justice Efforts
The curriculum-writing team in a suburban St. Louis school district plotted with a critical race theorist on how to keep parents “in the middle of Trump country” in the dark about their efforts to inject leftwing social justice advocacy into their classes.
During a webinar with members of the Francis Howell School District curriculum-writing team, the district’s equity consultant, LaGarrett J. King, told the group that “our social studies and our history curriculum is political and racist,” and “there is no such thing as neutral history.” He said the way history is taught is psychologically violent to black people, and the nations’ founding “means nothing to black people.” He asked the team members to question whether they are developing black history curriculums through the historical lens of “the oppressor.”
Teachers on the call asked King how they could reframe their classes to teach social justice concepts “in a highly conservative county … in the middle of Trump country.” King suggested they could drop controversial terms like “white privilege” while still getting the progressive message across to students. One white teacher on the call acknowledged that “Kids are way more open” to social justice teaching, “but then they go home and they tell their parents, and then their parents get upset.”
How Critical Race Theory Is Remaking a Connecticut School District
In the overwhelmingly white and moneyed town of Guildford, Connecticut, progressive parents and teachers have formed the Anti-Bias Anti-Racist Alliance(ABAR). The group intends to make “anti-racists” of each and every child who passes through the school district. ABAR says on its website, “In diving into this, you’ll find that the first critical step to raising anti-racist kids is to understand our own biases and identities, to ‘do the work’….We realize that as a predominantly white, cis-gendered community we are shaped by our privilege and limited ability to fully understand the impact of bias and racism.”
The group enjoys a powerful ally, Superintendent Paul Freeman. With him in charge, curriculum alteration is underway. At a recent social justice meeting he praised the formation and aims of ABAR, calling them “one of the brightest spots in the school year.” Freeman has a history of re-education pushes. In 2019 he had teachers create a “racial autobiography,” an accounting of the racial makeup of one’s life experiences, to illustrate the whiteness of their backgrounds. He then distributed copies of White Fragility and How to be an Anti-Racist to every teacher in the district using $6,000 taxpayer dollars to pay for the books.
Resistance to these “anti-racist” efforts is in its infancy, led by a fast-growing parent group called Truth in Education(TIE). TIE is now wrestling with the school district about having a public debate about critical race theory. The district denies they teach critical race theory in their schools and has rebuffed the debate requests.
How Southlake, Texas, Won Its Battle against Critical Race Theory
In Southlake, Texas, CRT activists and a conciliatory school board attempted to take over the Carroll School District curriculum via a hushed mid-summer vote. Southlake, an affluent Republican-voting suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth, was seventy-two hours from an “anti-racist” coup that would have meant a dramatic leftward shift for the district. The District Diversity Council crafted the proposal, called the Cultural Competence Action Plan(CCAP), to create an “anti-racist” culture in the district, replete with micro-aggression guidance and speech-policing policies.
Concerned parents flooded into the board meeting and delayed the vote on the proposed bill, allowing an anti-CRT coalition to form in the following weeks and secure seats on the school board. With historic turnout, there is confidence that the next election will raise their hold on the district 5-2, a bulwark against another attempt to pass the proposal. To many outside observers, this was the first resounding defeat of a CRT effort and can provide a playbook for parents elsewhere.
Head of Elite NYC Private School: ‘We’re Demonizing White People for Being Born’
The head of an elite New York City prep school privately acknowledged that the school’s anti-racism training is “demonizing white people for being born,” according to leaked audio from a conversation he had with an embattled teacher in March.
George Davison, the head of Grace Church School in Manhattan, told math teacher Paul Rossi that the school uses language that makes white students “feel less than, for nothing that they are personally responsible for,” and that “one of the things that’s going on a little too much” is the “attempt to link anybody who’s white to the perpetuation of white supremacy.”
“I also have grave doubts about some of the doctrinaire stuff that gets spouted at us, in the name of anti-racism,” Davison told Rossi, according to the recordings.
Rossi was relieved of his duties at Grace for calling out the school for its antiracist orthodoxy. During their conversation, Davison said he agreed with Rossi that “there has been a demonization that we need to get our hands around.”
Maryland Middle-Schoolers Taught that MAGA is White Supremacy
Thomas Pyle Middle School students in Montgomery County, Maryland, were taught that former-President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is an example of “covert white supremacy,” ranking only slightly less troubling than racial slurs, hate crimes and lynching, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.
Other examples of alleged white supremacy include: the belief that “we’re just one human family,” the one-time American ideal of colorblindness, celebrating Columbus Day, and the belief that through initiative and drive people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps to improve their lives, also known as “bootstrap theory.”
Students in the school’s social justice class were taught that white privilege means being favored by school authorities, having a positive relationship with police, “soaking in media blatantly biased toward my race,” and “living ignorant of the dire state of racism today.”
Montogomery County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, recently spent over $454,000 for an “anti-racist system audit,” according to Judicial Watch.
Wealthy Washington D.C. Suburb is Ground Zero in Nation’s Culture Wars
In Loudoun County, Virginia parents fighting to reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic joined forces with parents pushing back against leftwing political indoctrination, making the wealthy Washington D.C. suburb ground zero in the nation’s culture wars.
In early 2021, several video clips from the district’s school board meetings went viral.
There have been heated debates over the Loudoun County School District’s efforts to root out “white supremacy” and “systemic racism,” which many parents see as a blatant attempt to inject critical race theory into the schools. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, parents learned that the school district paid at least $422,000 to the Equity Collaborative, a CRT-espousing California-based consulting firm, to conduct a “systemic equity assessment.” In March, the district de-emphasized Dr. Seuss on Read Across America Day – held on Dr. Seuss’s birthday – because of “strong racial undertones” in many of his books. The district also has partnered with the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center to develop a social justice-inspired curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten.
The cultural battles in Loudoun County are broader than just fights over CRT. In May, a Christian elementary school teacher was suspended after he voiced opposition to a proposed district rule that would require faculty to acknowledge and address students by their preferred gender-identity pronouns. A judge later ordered that he be reinstated.
Maine School Committee Claims Society is ‘Built on White Supremacy’
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police last June, the equity committee in a far-away school district in Maine released a stunning letter. It was time, the committee members declared, to “dismantle the anti-Blackness all of us have internalized by living in a society built on white supremacy.”
The committee members wanted the entire Cumberland and North Yarmouth community to know that they were ready to make changes to the majority-white school district. “It is our duty,” they wrote, “to educate ourselves and dismantle the violent and oppressive structures which have kept us divided.” Black people “experience violence every single day because of our white supremacist society,” they added, and the community’s students needed to be taught that “Black Lives Matter.”
The school district has since paid over $12,000 for diversity and equity training from Community Change Inc., a non-profit that advocates to “end capitalism” and to “look at other economic models … such as socialism and anarchism.”
San Diego Teachers Taught They ‘Spirit Murder’ Black Students
White teachers in San Diego were taught during a training session last year that they are guilty of committing “spirit murder” against their black students.
In September, the San Diego Unified School District, hosted critical race theorist Bettina Love for a presentation on “Abolitionist Teaching.” The presentation centered around Love’s book, We Want To Do More Than Survive, and addressed the concept of “spirit murder,” which Love has described as “a death that is built on racism and intended to reduce, humiliate, and destroy people of color.”
The training was led by then-superintendent Cindy Marten, who has since been tapped by President Joe Biden to serve as his deputy secretary of education. Marten urged people attending the training to “recognize our privilege and bias.”
Kentucky Social Equity Course Didn’t Pass Neutrality Test
Concerned parents in a suburban Kentucky community organized in early 2021 to put the kibosh on a proposed social-equity course designed to teach about “the intersection of gender, race, class, and sexuality,” and to help students “create an action plan for future social change.”
A syllabus for the course at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., identified two “required textbooks” – Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility – which students would be asked to buy, with the hope that “these books will stay with you as a reminder of the work that we (society) need to do.”
In his book, Kendi argues in favor of race-based discrimination to achieve racial equity. DiAngelo suggests that white people should be viewed as a racist collective socialized to “fundamentally hate black people.” One of the teachers who helped develop the course has identified herself as a “dumb white girl with white privilege.”
The course was tabled because a school leader said it created “unnecessary division,” and did not pass the neutrality test.
Rhode Island Teacher Urges Students to Testify About Legislation She Opposes
A Barrington High School teacher in Rhode Island is accused of promoting political activism in her class after she emailed students this spring, mischaracterizing an anti-critical-race-theory bill in the legislature and urging students to testify about it with a promise of extra credit.
The teacher sent the email in late March, telling her students that bill H6070 – one of many bills in statehouses across the country aimed at stopping schools from preaching CRT-related concepts – would prohibit any discussion of race or gender in the classroom. In reality, the bill would only have barred things like teaching that any race or sex was inherently superior or that any individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive – “whether consciously or unconsciously” – based only on their race or sex.
“I strongly urge you to testify on this bill tomorrow,” the teacher wrote to her students, after clearly stating her own opposition to the legislation. “As always, if you are a student in my class, you will receive 5 points on your next unit test if you decide to testify and provide me with your written testimony.”
Virginia School District Revising How Controversial Topics Addressed
In an effort to realize their “vision of educational equity,” school leaders in one Washington D.C. suburb are revising a policy that requires controversial topics be addressed impartially, objectively, and from multiple perspectives.
The effort in Fairfax, Virginia, is part of the school district’s plan to develop a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy. To develop its plan, the district has partnered with The Leadership Academy, a New York-based consulting firm that promotes “equity-focused leadership development” and “anti-racism.”
The district also has done away with testing requirements for admission to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, one of the nation’s most prestigious public schools, because it was not diverse enough. More than 70 percent of the school’s students in the 2019-20 school year were Asian. The school board is facing at least two lawsuits alleging anti-Asian discrimination.
Massachusetts Students, School Staff Encouraged to Report Microaggressions
Leaders of the Wellesley Public Schools system in Massachusetts are encouraging students and staff members to snitch on one another for telling rude jokes and committing microaggressions.
Students and staff are encouraged to report incidents of discrimination “or any concerning pattern of biased behavior” to any district staff member or trusted adult, according to documents from the district’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Reports can be made anonymously.
According to training slides, “Telling rude jokes that mock a protected group” is an example of a “bias-based incident.” Examples of microaggressions include saying “My principal is so crazy!” asking someone “Where are you actually from?” or saying “Ohhh, you got the ‘China Virus’?!?!”
Potential discipline includes detention, suspension or “other restorative responses.”
Teachers questioned how they could teach history and social studies through a social justice lens without rankling parents in the 'highly conservative county ... in the middle of Trump country.'
The curriculum-writing team in a suburban St. Louis school district plotted with a critical race theory advocate on how to keep parents in the dark about their efforts to inject leftwing social justice advocacy into their classrooms, according to a video of their meeting leaked online.
The video, posted on rumble.com in early July, is alleged to be a condensed version of a September 2020 webinar that members of the Francis Howell School District’s curriculum-writing team participated in. The webinar was hosted by their equity consultant, LaGarrett J. King, an associate professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri. He was described on the call as a specialist in the study of “race, critical theories and knowledge.”
It’s unclear who edited the video, which appears to have been posted anonymously by someone with the online moniker “wokeatfhsd.”
During the webinar, King told the predominantly white team members that “This is not a safe space,” but rather a “racialized space,” because “In many ways a safe space is a space where white people tell us how not racist they are. And this is not that space.”
King said “the first thing we have to understand is that our social studies and our history curriculum is political and racist,” and “there is no such thing as neutral history.” He then asked the team members to question whether they are developing black history curriculums through the historical lens of the oppressor. “We have made those who have oppressed people, the oppressor, we have humanized them,” he said.
The nation’s founding “means nothing to black people,” he said, calling history “psychologically violent” but one-sided. He also seemed to justify violence in the name of racial justice.
“All of our wars was about freedom, violence,” King said. “But yet, when black people say, ‘Hey … we need to take over, man. We need to burn this place down, we need to do this, we need to do that.’ ‘Oh no, you should do non-violence to achieve freedom.’ It’s silly. It’s prejudice.”
During a question-and-answer portion of the webinar, teachers and staff on the call questioned how they could reframe their classes to look at history and social studies through a more racialized social justice lens without rankling parents in the “highly conservative” community, which one teacher described as “the middle of Trump country.” King agreed that teachers could do away with verbiage like “white privilege,” while still getting the progressive message across to students.
One white teacher on the call said she’s been teaching about white privilege for a decade.
“Kids are way more open,” she said, “but then they go home and they tell their parents, and then their parents get upset. I don’t advertise to my students when I’m teaching U.S. history that sometimes I would consider myself the anti-U.S. history teacher.”
Another white teacher said because they teach in a conservative county, “Sometimes I think we have deferred to letting that stop progress. We let noise keep progress from moving forward.”
In a paper he co-authored in 2018, King acknowledged that critical theory was developed in the 1920s by German thinkers who “sought to extend Marxist theory into the changing social, political, and economic landscape of the twentieth century by talking about how culture and ideology encourage and sustain social inequality.” In order to “remain true to critical pedagogy,” the authors wrote, “teachers should work to identify questions that are important to students’ lives and that encourage them to reflect on the ways that they are either privileged or oppressed by social dynamics.”
While the district’s teachers have privately discussed their efforts teach students through a decidedly progressive social justice lens, school leaders have publicly denied this is occurring. At a recent school board meeting, superintendent Nathan Hoven said the district has not adopted critical race theory into the framework of its curriculum. “We are not and have no interest in advancing any political agenda,” he said.
“While we support the work and many of Dr. King’s contributions, we vehemently disagree with any suggestions that teachers or staff hide the work we’re doing from parents and taxpayers,” the district told National Review in a statement provided by spokeswoman Jennifer Jolls. “We always strive to make decisions that we believe are in the best interests of students, and do so in a way that is transparent and accessible to all stakeholders.”
School board members recently voted to approve black history and black literature courses as high school electives, according to local media reports. “Students and parents requested these courses be added to the curriculum and we are proud to offer them for those who choose to expand their learning on these topics,” the district said in its statement.
Fairfax County Schools recently ditched merit-based admissions process
A group of parents at the nation’s top high school is suing the county school board for adopting new admissions practices that would slash the number of incoming Asian-American students.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of the Coalition for TJ, a parent organization at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In recent months, the Fairfax County School Board changed how students are admitted to the Alexandria, Va., magnet school in an attempt to boost enrollment of black and Hispanic students.
The coalition claims that the Fairfax County School Board’s newly adopted admissions processes are unconstitutional and would reduce the number of Asian-American students in the incoming freshman class by 42 percent.
In October, the Fairfax County School Board eliminated the merit-based entrance exam for the elite STEM-focused school. In December, the board limited the number of students each of the county’s middle schools can send to the high school. The lawsuit claims that this new process targets Asian Americans because the three Fairfax middle schools known for funneling students to Thomas Jefferson have predominantly Asian-American populations.
Thomas Jefferson is one of several U.S. high schools that have recently moved away from merit-based admissions in favor of practices that achieve desired racial quotas. Last month, the San Francisco Board of Education abandoned the admissions test for the city’s prestigious public high school in favor of a lottery system, claiming the former system “perpetuate[d] the culture of white supremacy.”
Harry Jackson, the parent of a black student at Thomas Jefferson High School, said that the new admissions process hurts gifted students in addition to Asian Americans.
“This is an attack on Asian Americans and on gifted education,” Jackson said at an online press conference on Wednesday. “It represents anti-intellectualism. Under the guise of trying to diversify Thomas Jefferson, they’re not doing anything to uplift the black and Hispanic community. It’s a targeted hit on the Asian community.”
Julia McCaskill, the parent of three students in Fairfax schools, said the district is blaming its failure to boost black and Hispanic enrollment rates on Asian Americans.
“Diversity is the goal for all of us and Thomas Jefferson does not belong to a certain race or group of people,” McCaskill said. “The lack of diversity of black and Latino students is a failure of the [school board], and instead of fixing those issues, they are focusing the hate on Asian Americans.”
Thomas Jefferson is a majority-minority high school. Roughly 70 percent of enrolled students are Asian. Another 20 percent are white and the remaining 10 percent comprises black, Hispanic, and other minority students.
Fairfax County Public Schools communications director Lucy Caldwell told the Washington Free Beacon that the district maintains that its new admissions process “continues to be race neutral and merit-based.” The district values diversity and says it contributes to the “richness” of education at Thomas Jefferson.
Parents across the country are increasingly tired of fights between school-district leaders and teachers’ unions over whether classrooms should open for in-person instruction.
Extended public-school closures and one-size-fits-all school systems have provided free advertising for school choice over the past year. Parents across the country are increasingly tired of fights between school-district leaders and teachers’ unions over whether classrooms should open for in-person instruction. And as their children’s learning continues to suffer, they are increasingly desperate for more options. Their desperation might just make school choice more popular, even after the pandemic is behind us.
One key factor driving parental exasperation is the obvious contrast between what public schools have done during this period and what private schools have done. While public schools in many cities remain closed, private schools and daycare centers have been fighting to safely reopen their doors for months. In fact, private schools in Kentucky went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for the right to provide in-person services to their customers. A private school in Sacramento County, Calif., even rebranded itself as a “daycare” by training its employees as child-care workers in an attempt to get around the government’s arbitrary closure rules. Nationwide and state-specific data confirm that private schools have been substantially more likely to reopen in-person than nearby public schools. And four rigorous studies have each found that public-school districts with stronger teachers’ unions have been significantly less likely to reopen in person.
Even more frustrating, there is no major medical reason for this disparity. In fact, keeping schools closed for in-person instruction flies in the face of the science. Last month, Center for Disease Control (CDC) researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “the preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring” and that “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” In New York City, for example, the latest positivity rate reported in schools was less than a tenth of the positivity rate in the overall community. Additional studies from other countries — including Sweden, Ireland, Norway, and Singapore — similarly suggest schools are not major contributors of community spread. UNICEF also reported that “data from 191 countries show no consistent association between school reopening status and COVID-19 infection rates.”
Yet certain examples of public-school behavior are particularly egregious even by these standards. For instance, while some public K–12 providers insisted on keeping classrooms fully remote, they were opening the same school buildings for in-person childcare services and charging families hundreds of dollars per child per week out of pocket. If the schools could reopen for in-person childcare services, why couldn’t they open for in-person learning? And more recently, a Chicago Teachers Union board member was caught vacationing in Puerto Rico while rallying teachers on social media to not return to work in person. But if was safe enough to travel to another country and vacation in person, then why wasn’t it safe enough to return to work in person?
Of course, some high-risk teachers have real health concerns and are looking for good-faith ways to make schools safer for them to be in. Unfortunately, unions have largely taken an all-or-nothing approach to their demands for reopening. In fact, many teachers’ unions across the country have been fighting to remain closed since the start of the pandemic. The public-school monopoly sought to protect itself at the expense of families as soon as the lockdowns began last March. The Oregon Education Association successfully lobbied that same month to make it illegal for families to switch to virtual charter schools. The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators lobbied for the same thing that month to prevent desperate families from taking their children’s education dollars to schools that had years of experience operating virtually. California took similar action by passing a bill that effectively prevented families from taking their children’s education dollars to public charter schools.
That’s not the only evidence that some teachers’ unions often prioritize politics and power over the needs of families. Take a look at some of their demands. In their report on safely reopening schools, the Los Angeles teachers’ union called for things unrelated to reopening schools, such as defunding the police, Medicare-for-All, a wealth tax, and a ban on charter schools. At least ten teachers’ unions joined with the Democratic Socialists of America to hold a “National Day of Resistance” to “Demand Safe Schools” on two occasions in less than a year. Included in their list of demands, in addition to more funding and staffing, were police-free schools, rent cancelation, unemployment benefits for all, and a ban on standardized tests and new charter schools.
Meanwhile, families have been left scrambling for nearly a year now and many children are falling behind academically, mentally, and physically. After all this, parents are beginning to realize that it is time for a change in the relationship between students and schools. They’ve recognized that it does not make any sense to fund closed school buildings when we can fund students directly instead. Think of it this way: If a grocery store doesn’t reopen, families can take their money elsewhere. If a school doesn’t reopen, families should similarly be able to take their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars elsewhere. After all, education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution.
Recent nationwide polling from RealClearOpinion Research found that support for the concept of school choice jumped ten percentage points in just a few months — from 67 percent in April to 77 percent in August 2020 — among families with children in the public-school system last year. Another national survey conducted by Morning Consult found that support for several types of school choice — education savings accounts, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and charter schools — all surged between the spring and fall of 2020. The same national poll found that 81 percent of the general public — and 86 percent of parents of school-aged children — now support funding students directly through education savings accounts.
These initiatives allow families to take a portion of their children’s K–12 education dollars, which would have otherwise automatically funneled to their residentially assigned public-school district, to cover the costs associated with any approved education provider, such as private schooling, tutoring, homeschooling, microschooling, and “pandemic pods.” And, of course, families would still be able to take all of their children’s education dollars to their residentially assigned public school if they prefer.
It isn’t just voters who are changing their minds. Legislators in at least 23 states have introduced bills in the past two months to fund students instead of systems. Five of these states — Arizona, Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kansas — have already passed school-choice bills out of a chamber, and three others — Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota — have passed bills out of committees.
Language in some of this new legislation also suggests that the push to fund students instead of systems is the direct result of the inability or unwillingness of some teachers’ unions and school systems to reopen in person. Legislators in states including Utah, Maryland, and Illinois introduced bills to allow families to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere if their public schools didn’t reopen in person. The proposal to fund students directly in Georgia includes several eligibility categories — one of which happens to be for students assigned to public schools without full-time in-person instruction. Congressman Dan Bishop also introduced federal legislation to allow families to take some of their children’s K–12 education dollars to private providers if their public schools don’t reopen in person.
The good news is that teachers’ unions and others who oppose safe in-person instruction have done more to advance school choice in the past year than anyone could have ever imagined. The pandemic has revealed the main problem with K–12 education: There is a massive power imbalance between the public school system and individual families.
Families have always gotten the short end of the stick on K–12 education. But it’s more obvious now than ever, and families are figuring out they’re getting a bad deal. The only way that we’re ever going to fix that uneven power dynamic is to give families real options by funding students directly.
It’s about time we get our priorities right and fund students, not systems.
Iowa is considering legislation that would fund students directly to allows more families to access educational alternatives.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and school reopening battles across the country prompt families to search for alternative educational options for their children, school choice policies are increasingly being looked at as a solution.
This is happening nowhere more prominently than Iowa, where a bill to enact an education savings account program has passed the State Senate and is being considered in the House. But the proposal has also sparked substantial debate, the kind that tends to feature a lot of anti-school choice myths. Iowans cannot afford to let these myths block better educational opportunities for their children.
At the heart of Senate File 159 is the creation of new “Student First Scholarship” education savings accounts, into which the state would deposit funds. Eligible families could use the funds for private school tuition, like a traditional voucher, but also for myriad other educational uses, including after-school tutoring, therapy for children with disabilities, and more. Students in public schools flagged for poor performance would qualify for the scholarship and have around $5,200 put into their education savings accounts each year.
A common concern is that such a program would “siphon” money from cash-strapped public schools, hurting the children left behind. As the Des Moines Register editorialized, calling for choice “is an attempt to put lipstick on the pig of siphoning taxpayer money from public schools to funnel to private schools.”
At first blush, that may seem like a reasonable concern: having state dollars following a child to another education provider could, indeed, leave a public school with fewer funds. But that is not siphoning. It is connecting the money to the people it is most supposed to serve — children — and the funds only leave if a family has found an education provider it prefers.
Look at it this way: A family taking money for their child’s education from a public to a private school no more siphons dollars from a public school than choosing to go to Price Chopper siphons from Hy-Vee. Pell Grants similarly do not “siphon” money from community colleges just because they can be used at private universities chosen by students.
Education funding should not belong to any particular institution. It is meant for educating children.
Moreover, since only state funding would follow a child, a lot of money would stay with the public school, increasing resources for each child remaining in the public school. With Iowa spending an estimated $13,774 per public-school student according to the Census Bureau, a $5,200 savings account deposit would leave money behind.
Imagine if Hy-Vee were able to keep most of your grocery budget after you started shopping at your preferred Price Chopper. That would be a fantastic deal for Hy-Vee. The public schools similarly get to keep large sums of money for children they are no longer educating.
Perhaps the per-pupil financial gain for public schools is one reason research has found that in regions where there is more private school choice, public schools perform better. Or perhaps public schools’ improvements have to do with competition — as schools have to up their game when someone else could get their funding. Regardless, 26 of 28 studies on the topic find that school choice leads to better outcomes for children who remain in public schools.
It is the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats.
And let’s be clear: Anti-choice myths disproportionately prevent the least advantaged from having educational options. The most advantaged families already have school choice. They can afford to live in neighborhoods that are residentially assigned to the best public schools. They can afford to pay out of pocket for the costs of private education.
Funding students directly allows more families to access educational alternatives. School choice is an equalizer.
Ultimately, the need for choice is simple: It is unfair to have a child’s ZIP code determine their future. Iowa should fund students, not institutions.