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Medical Experts, Parents Deeply Divided over Masking in Schools as Delta Surges

By Ryan MillsNational Review

Students wearing protective masks attend classes on the first day of school at Barbara Goleman Senior High School in Miami, Fla., August 23, 2021. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

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.”


Princeton Offering ‘#Black Lives Matter’ Class Taught By CRT Advocate

By NR StaffNational Review

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting which included a discussion about Critical Race Theory, in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

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 Fixincludes 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.”


Missouri Teachers, CRT Advocate Plotted to Hide Social Justice Curriculum from ‘Trump Country’ Parents

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.'

By Ryan MillsNational Review

Opponents of Critical Race Theory protest outside of the Loudoun County School Board headquarters in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

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.


Parent Group Fights Asian Discrimination At Nation’s Top High School

Fairfax County Schools recently ditched merit-based admissions process

By Alex NesterThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

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.


COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Show the Need for Funding Students, Not Systems

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.

By Corey A. DeAngelisReason Foundation

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Show the Need for Funding Students, Not Systems
177500276 © Kontakt5956 | Dreamstime.com

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 SwedenIrelandNorway, 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 academicallymentally, 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 — ArizonaIowaIndianaWest Virginia, and Kansas — have already passed school-choice bills out of a chamber, and three others — FloridaMissouri, 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 UtahMaryland, 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.

Families are also fighting back in other ways. Parents are filing lawsuits against school districts over their inadequate reopening plans. Others are pushing to recall school-board members.

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.


School Choice Myths Should Not Block Educational Freedom

Iowa is considering legislation that would fund students directly to allows more families to access educational alternatives.

By Corey A. DeAngelisReason Foundation

School Choice Myths Should Not Block Educational Freedom
42566734 © Fotoeye75 | Dreamstime.com

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.


Biden Education Pick Is Leading Opponent of Return to Classrooms

Despite admin pledge to reopen schools, nominee sides with unions to keep San Diego public schools closed

By Matthew FoldiThe Washington Free Beacon

Twitter

President Joe Biden’s pick to be deputy secretary of education is still fighting to keep students out of the classroom in San Diego, where she’s school superintendent.

Cindy Marten, the longtime superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, has been a vocal opponent of bringing back in-person instruction for public school students. The district had pledged to give a timeline for reopening on Jan. 13, but Marten failed to follow through, announcing after the deadline that no date for return will be set.

“Despite the progress that is being made and all of the best efforts of all of our employees, it’s important that we recognize that the virus continues to spread and it’s out of control in our communities,” Marten said. “This is not the time to let up on our efforts to defeat this deadly virus.”

Marten’s refusal to set a timeline for schools to reopen is in direct contradiction with Biden, who has vowed to have schools reopen within the first hundred days of his presidency. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, has said the government’s “default position” should be to get kids back in the classroom.

Recent peer-reviewed studies confirm that transmission of COVID-19 in schools is “extremely rare,” but teachers in some of the biggest districts in the country continue to resist going back to the classroom until there is mass vaccination of both teachers and students.

Former San Diego county supervisor Kristin Gaspar, a Republican who lost her district race in November, praised Marten’s “passion” for her work but said she has been hamstrung by her commitment to pleasing the unions.

“Superintendent Marten should be praised for her passion at the reins of San Diego schools,” Gaspar told the Washington Free Beacon. “Unfortunately, Marten has consistently favored the loudest voice at the decision-making table, and that is the teachers’ union. It’s alarming to us as parents to witness the strong influence of labor unions on the continued closure of public schools.”

As she works to keep public schools closed, Marten, who also serves on the board of the California Teachers Association benefits organization, continues to make over $300,000 in the taxpayer-funded role, between salary and benefits. While San Diego’s public schools continue their restrictions on in-person education, a majority of their private counterparts have opened their doors for in-person learning. A November survey found that 84 percent of San Diego students in private schools are attending in person to varying degrees, compared with only 32 percent of those in San Diego public schools.ADVERTISING

The actual curriculum of San Diego Unified School District’s classes may pose additional hurdles to Marten’s nomination. A report from the City Journal found that, amid a global pandemic, the district has prioritized abolishing deadlines for homework, mandating diversity trainings where teachers were told they are guilty of “spirit murdering” black children, and instituting an ethnic studies curriculum.

Five years into her tenure as superintendent, a Voice of San Diego report found that “gains have been incremental and difficult to measure” and that “the achievement gap Marten pledged to tackle at the outset has gone virtually unchanged.” Katrina Hasan Hamilton, the local NAACP education chair, criticized Marten’s “historical pattern of allowing the excessive suspension and expulsion of black students in San Diego.”

Marten has received support from her fellow California Democrats, including Tony Thurmond, California’s superintendent of public instruction, who has made institutionalizing sex education a priority from kindergarten onward.

Gaspar said she hopes Marten will reverse course if confirmed as deputy secretary of education and make the well-being of children her top priority.

“The inability to open our schools has led to severe increases in anxiety, depression, higher incidences of child abuse, doubling of child sex trafficking, and a rapidly growing socioeconomic divide,” she said. “As deputy secretary of education, may Cindy Marten find the strength and grace to first prioritize the well-being of students across this country that will be entrusted to her care.”

Marten’s confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled. Neither Marten nor the White House returned requests for comment.


COVID-19 could be the moment we turn to school choice as a road to equal opportunity

States should broaden policies to support the school choice parents are demanding.

By Paul E. PetersonThe Dallas Morning News

Nothing in the historical record has disrupted American schools quite like COVID-19. Millions of students will lose more than a year of classroom instruction. Only the most hopeful think schools will return to normalcy before next September. An entire generation can expect a drop in lifetime earnings of 5% to 10%, economists tell us. Even worse, social and emotional development have been stunted. Schools no longer provide eye and ear exams, nurse office visits, and ready access to social services. Children from low-income backgrounds are suffering the most.

Parents desperately search for alternatives. In affluent communities, neighbors have formed learning pods, with tutors and fellow parents sharing the instructional burden. Home schooling is on the rise. Families are shifting their children to private and charter schools. Entrepreneurial high school seniors are taking dual enrollment courses, hoping to finish high school and begin college at the same time. But too many children are occupying their time in other ways, with ever more high school students simply dropping out. Enrollment at public schools is falling by 5% or more. The opportunity gap is almost certainly widening between rich and poor children.ADVERTISING

But what happens after the vaccine arrives and the virus has been cornered? Will parents return to the status quo? Or are they going to demand more choices and greater control over their child’s education? Before COVID-19, nearly a third of all students attended a school of choice, including district-operated magnet schools (7%) other district options such as vocational and exam schools (6%), charters (6%), home schooling (3%), and private schools (8% using family and other private funds and 1% with school vouchers or tax-credit scholarships).

If parents have any say, the demand for choice is almost certain to increase. During the pandemic itself, parents reported teachers at charter and private schools were more likely to provide direct instruction. Loss of learning occurred everywhere, but it was less, parents said, at these schools of choice.

What state policies should govern choice practices in the coming decade? How can states ensure that choice facilitates, not hinders, equal educational opportunities? There is no one answer, as every state has its own history and geography. But as the COVID storm has raged, researchers at Stanford’s Hoover Institution came up with a few principles and recommendations that might serve as a guide.

Most important, school choice should reduce the achievement inequalities the pandemic has aggravated. Traditionally, choice has been mainly available to those who could afford to rent or buy a home in a neighborhood that had good schools.

Magnet schools were the first to break this connection between school and residence. To foster school desegregation, they offered specialized programs — math and science, performing arts, bilingual instruction, career and technical training — to attract students from all ethnic groups from all parts of the school district. Most studies indicate that, on average, students are learning more at magnets than in other district schools. In many cities, including Miami, Denver and New York, the magnet concept is being broadened to encompass the entire district. Every school is a school of choice. The schools that go unchosen are earmarked for special attention or may be closed for lack of enough students. States should facilitate more of these districtwide choice programs.

Charter schools — publicly authorized schools that operate under private auspices — are also broadening family options. In 2018 Texas charters served more than 330,000 students at nearly 800 schools, about 6% of all public school students.

Initially, studies showed little difference between the performances of students at charters and district schools, either in Texas or elsewhere. But recent studies show that cohorts of students who attend charters in Texas and nationwide are improving at twice the rate of students at district schools. The biggest strides forward are among African American students.

To facilitate their expansion, states can authorize more schools, but limit fiscal harms to school districts. In Texas and most other states, funding follows the child when the student moves either to a charter school or from one district to another. Although the fiscal policy makes sense, districts that lose enrollment still bear legacy costs, most importantly, pensions and medical benefits for retired employees. States can mitigate the political controversies by absorbing more of these legacy costs.

Some worry that charters undermine district-operated public schools by attracting the most engaged families. Fortunately, that has not happened so far: Recent evidence shows gains in student performance at district schools when they are competing with charters.

School segregation is another concern. But even though racial isolation remains widespread in most metropolitan areas, a recent study by the liberal Urban Institute finds that choice has little effect on the racial composition of schools, one way or the other.

Still, there is much that state policymakers can do to make sure that school choice enhances equal opportunity. Charter schools can be placed in locations that foster integration. States can fund transportation costs for all students, no matter what school they attend. That is both efficient and equitable. And once legacy costs are protected, choice of school should not be skewed by favorable funding for one type of school rather than another.

Going forward, states should focus on middle and high schools. Research tells us that students in fourth grade public schools have been learning their letters and numbers as well or better than in the past. The challenge schools face comes with the onset of adolescence.

Achievement slippage is well underway by eighth grade, and it becomes increasingly severe as students proceed through high school. Rising high school graduation rates are mostly a function of easier grading practices and undemanding credit recovery courses, as shown by the astoundingly high dropout rates at community colleges. Half of all students just out of high school leave a two-year college within the first year.

Choice by itself will not solve the malaise that continues to plague too much of our educational system, especially in the middle and high school years. But if students are given a wide range of options, leading to multiple types of meaningful certificates, chances improve that young people will become more adequately prepared for what comes next. The COVID-19 crisis can become the equal opportunity moment.


Biden Education Lead: Chinese Communist Party Has Done ‘Magical Work’

By Chrissy ClarkThe Washington Free Beacon

Chinese students in Beijing, China / Getty Images

Joe Biden’s education transition team lead has a long history of praising China’s school system—a system the Chinese Communist Party designed to indoctrinate students.

Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor and the president of the California State Board of Education, has praised the Chinese Communist Party’s education system for its “magical work” in establishing a strong teacher-government presence in student life. In her 2017 book Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality Around the World, she explained the centrality of the teacher to Chinese students’ lives.

“Teachers in China are revered as elders, role models, and those whom parents entrust to shape the future of their children,” Darling-Hammond wrote. “In the Tao traditions of ritual, the phrase ‘heaven-earth-sovereign-parent-teacher’ is repeated and becomes ingrained in how people see themselves holistically governed and supported.”

The Stanford educator failed to mention that any other teacher-student “relationship” could result in imprisonment. The Chinese government continually cracks down on “Western values” in the classroom by sending state-sponsored inspectors to monitor teachers—particularly in higher education—for “improper” remarks. Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has said that China’s schools and teachers must “serve the Communist Party in its management of the country.”

Not serving it can carry steep consequences. In July, for example, Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun was placed under house arrest after he criticized Xi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He was subsequently fired from his teaching position at Tsinghua University—one of China’s most elite institutions—after he spoke out against Xi’s removal of presidential term limits.

In her book, Darling-Hammond also praised China for dramatically increasing spending on education. But that money has been unevenly distributed, resulting in persistent inequalities. Sixty percent of rural students drop out by the time they reach high school, and of the remaining 40 percent, only a small fraction take college entrance exams.

Similar disparities apply to teachers—yet in a 2011 Washington Post article, Darling-Hammond lauded China for boosting spending on teachers’ professional development. She also took a “detailed statement” from the Chinese minister of education at face value, in which he claimed that China had allocated “billions of yuen” to improving teachers’ “working … and living conditions.”

Such omissions appear in Darling-Hammond’s Twitter feed as well. In 2018, she tweetedthat the United States had 71 times as many school shootings as China, but declined to note that Chinese crime statistics are notoriously inaccurate. She also ignored the numerous stabbings that plague Chinese schools. In October 2018, a woman stabbed 14 children in a kindergarten class. In April 2018, nine students were murdered at a middle school.

Darling-Hammond has spent nearly her entire life entrenched in Ivy League institutions, beginning at Yale University in 1969. In 2008, she served as the lead for Barack Obama’s education transition team. Darling-Hammond had been under consideration to be Biden’s secretary of education but claimed she was “not interested” in the position, citing her desire to continue working with California governor Gavin Newsom.

The Biden team did not respond to requests for comment.


The Hard Truth about Remote Learning This Fall

A disconcerting amount of energy has been devoted to battling parents who are trying to solve the problem that’s been dumped on their doorstep.

By FREDERICK M. HESS & MATTHEW RICENational Review

(Ridofranz/Getty Images)

The kitchen table will once again serve as a makeshift desk for millions of students when they head “back to school” in the next few weeks. Seventeen of the nation’s 20 largest school districts have said that they’ll reopen with zero in-person instruction. Nationally, only about 40 percent of schools have announced plans to reopen in-person (with another ten percent planning for a hybrid model that includes some in-person instruction).

In short, close to half the nation’s K–12 schools may begin the new year remotely, a figure that will be far higher in the systems serving the most students. This painful reality, combined with teacher resistance to reopening and parental concerns about student safety, has prompted districts to work overtime promising that remote learning will be much better this fall.

While we’re big fans of making the best of a bad situation, we fear that this misplaced optimism has made it easier than it should be for school leaders to keep the doors locked this fall and has undermined commitment to the contractual arrangements, training, supports, and instruction needed to ensure that remote learning is more than an oxymoron. To be clear, remote learning is wholly in order where the public-health situation has rendered classrooms untenable. But it’s critical that parents, teachers, and school administrators in those locales proceed with no illusions.

This spring’s virtual-learning experiment was underwhelming, to say the least. Researchers at NWEA, Brown, and the University of Virginia have estimated that students will begin the coming school year already woefully behind, with just two-thirds the learning gains in reading and as little as half of the gains in math that we would normally expect. This is hardly a surprise, given that nearly a quarter of students were truant and that, even as the spring semester ground to an end, only a fifth of school districts expected teachers to provide real-time instruction.

Despite assurances from district officials that this fall’s remote instruction will be much improved, there’s a lot of cause for skepticism. For one thing, the evidence is pretty clear that, for most learners, virtual learning today is significantly less effective than classroom instruction. Research suggests that is likely to be particularly true for disadvantaged students.

Moreover, there’s little evidence that school systems worked out the kinks of virtual learning over the summer. Consider New York City’s dismal experience with summer learning. In the nation’s biggest and biggest-spending school district, despite New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza’s pledge that the city’s summer learning plan would get kids “ready to hit the ground running come September,” the program was plagued by the same problems that befell schools last spring — from technical glitches to poor curricula to sky-high truancy rates.

Less than half of districts offered any sort of professional development to their teachers over the summer, and just 20 percent have plans to provide support to teachers in a remote-learning setting. Parents have expressed frustration about the dearth of communication or guidance from their schools, and educators themselves have fretted that they’re not sure, after a lost spring, how they’ll convince students that this fall’s remote learning should suddenly be taken seriously. And, however tough it was for teachers to connect with students this spring, they’d already had six months of in-person instruction to build from; things are going to be exponentially tougher this fall for those teachers who know their students only as pixels and email addresses.

Meanwhile, teacher unions have served as another impediment. Even when the concerns sometimes seem exaggerated, one can appreciate why teachers may be hesitant about in-person schooling. Extraordinarily troubling, however, is that — once schools have gone fully virtual — more than a few union locals seem to be intent on pursuing provisions designed to hinder remote teaching and allow teachers paid as full-time educators to operate as part-time employees.

In Los Angeles, the “tentative agreement” between the district and the union stipulates that teachers will only need to deliver one to three hours of live instruction a day, with the exact amount determined by a complicated distance-learning schedule that incorporates grade level and, weirdly, the day of the week. In San Diego, the tentative agreement between the union and the district calls for three hours of live instruction a day, one “office hour” a day, and two hours of prep time for teachers (during which students are supposed to be doing “asynchronous” work, i.e. watching videos or filling out worksheets).

All of this leaves parents in a tough spot as they contemplate another lost semester, knowing their kids need more than the two hours of Zoom calls and busywork that many schools are offering. Some parents have been found a solution in “learning pods,” small, parent-organized classrooms led by a tutor or teacher that deliver a lot of the benefits of in-person schooling while minimizing risk. Others have turned to virtual charter schools with more purposeful, robust online programs. Still others have sought to transfer to smaller private schools offering some form of in-person learning.

Yet far from celebrating these attempts to do what many schools won’t, the nation’s scolds have apparently decided this a good time to upbraid and obstruct parents who dare to do more than sit and fret. Parents who form learning pods have been lambasted in the New York Times for choosing “to perpetuate racial inequities rooted in white supremacy” and criticized in the Washington Post for “weakening the public education system they leave behind.” Those trying to move their kids to virtual charter schools have been fought by union leaders who, in Oregon, pressured state officials to block such transfers. And in Montgomery County, Md., parents who’d turned to private schools found local officials striving to shutter these options just weeks before the start of school.

When the public-health situation warrants it, remote learning is better than nothing. But, even before we turn to the crushing impacts on working parents and children’s mental health, it’s crucial to appreciate just what a dismal substitute today’s remote learning really is. And, while it’s far from clear that district and union leaders are focused on putting in place the measures that might help, a disconcerting amount of energy has been devoted to battling parents who are trying to solve the problem that’s been dumped on their doorstep.33

The takeaway is pretty straightforward. In most places, remote learning is going to be a mess this fall. School and system leaders should be doing all they can to reopen schools as rapidly and thoughtfully as their local health context permits. And, in the meantime, educators, community leaders, and policymakers should do all they can to help families find solutions that will work for them.


Why Democrats Have Started To Cave On Reopening Schools

The pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. This means something else big: Their hard opposition to school reopenings is politically devastating for Democrats.

By Joy PullmannThe Federalist

Why Democrats Have Started To Cave On Reopening Schools
Photo Phil Roeder / Flickr

Prominent Democrat politicians have started making huge concessions on reopening schools. Back in May, Democrats pounced after President Trump supported reopening. Despite the data finding precisely the opposite, it quickly became the Democrat-media complex line that opening schools this fall would be preposterously dangerous to children and teachers.

In July, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to put the city’s 1.1 million school kids back in schools half the week and “online learning” the rest of the week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a public fight with him, saying, “If anybody sat here today and told you that they could reopen the school in September, that would be reckless and negligent of that person.”

Then on Friday, Cuomo cleared schools to open this fall, just a few weeks after making uncertain noises about the prospect as teachers unions breathed down his neck. That same day, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s minority leader, joined the Democrat messaging reversal:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tucked the posture shift into a Saturday response to Trump’s latest executive orders, saying “these announcements do…nothing to reopen schools,” as if Democrats have been all along supporting school reopenings instead of the opposite. Just a few weeks ago, Pelosi was on TV bashing Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for encouraging school reopenings, saying, falsely, “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus. They ignore science and they ignore governance in order to make this happen.”

What gives? For one thing, New York’s richest people have fled during the lockdowns. If their kids’ tony public schools don’t offer personal instruction or look likely to maintain the chaos of rolling lockdown brownouts, those wealthy people have better choices. They can stay in their vacation houses or newly bought mansions in states that aren’t locked down. They can hire pod teachers or private schools.

And the longer they stay outside New York City and start to make friends and get used to a new place, the less likely they are to ever return. Cuomo is well aware of this.

“I literally talk to people all day long who are now in their Hamptons house who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house, or in their Connecticut weekend house, and I say, ‘You got to come back! We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!’” Cuomo revealed in a recent news conference. “They’re not coming back right now. And you know what else they’re thinking? ‘If I stay there, I’ll pay a lower income tax,’ because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge.”

Reopening means swimming against their anti-Trump base and teachers union donors’ full-court press to amp school funding and slash teacher duties. That means the below-surface financial and political pressure Cuomo, Pelosi, and Schumer are under to make this kind of a reversal must be huge. It’s likely coming from not only internal polling but also early information about just how many people have left New York and New York City, as well as interpersonal intelligence from their influential social circles.

This means three things. First, the pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. Second, Democrats’ hard opposition to school reopenings has been politically devastating. Third, all the push polls and media scaremongering promoting the idea that most parents shouldn’t and wouldn’t send their kids back to school have failed.

One of the most significant reasons it failed is that parents’ experience with online pandemic schooling was a horror show. Another is that private schools have clearly outpaced public schools’ response to coronavirus. That’s both in offering quality online instruction when forced to close, and in seeking to remain open as much and as safely as possible, all while teachers unions have been staging embarrassing tantrums over people on public payroll actually having to do their jobs to get paid, even though epidemiologists have noted “there is no recorded case worldwide of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil.”

Public schools have been so clearly shown up by private schools during the coronavirus panic that state and local officials have begun to target them specifically, and have carefully included them in all onerous government burdens on school reopenings, to reduce their embarrassment and bring private schools down to the public school level as much as possible.

The most prominent recent example is in Maryland, where a local bureaucrat in one of the nation’s richest counties specifically banned private schools from safely teaching children in person, and is now battling with the state’s Republican governor over the edict. In North Carolina, many private schools are offering safe, face-to-face, five-day instruction, while most public schools are not.

Part of this is just that government bureaucrats hate individuals making their own decisions based on their own circumstances (a major reason for mask mandates, by the way). But also they’re scared because the coronavirus panic is expanding the massive fault lines inside public schooling. And public schools are a feeder system for Democrat support.

Before coronavirus hit, a near-majority of parents already thought a private school would be better for their kids than public school. People really are not happy with public education. Mostly they do it because they think it’s cheap.

But politicians’ handling of coronavirus has shown that public education is actually very expensive. The instability, the mismanagement, the lying, the public manipulation, all of it has tipped many people’s latent dissatisfaction with public schooling into open dissatisfaction. It’s a catalyst. Now many more people have decided to get their kids out of there, either by homeschooling, moving school districts, forming “pandemic pods,” or finally trying a private school.

Like all the rich people leaving locked-down locales, parents removing kids from locked-down public schools have scared public officials. If just 10 percent of public-school kids homeschool or join a private school for two years, that is a watershed moment for the social undercurrent of animosity towards public schools. That is especially true in the government funding era we’re entering, in which government debt and health and pension promises are set to gobble up education dollars faster than ever, a dynamic that was already ruinous before it was accelerated further by the coronavirus.

This is dangerous to Democrats’ political dominance because the education system tilts voters their way through cultural Marxism, and because public education is a huge source of Democrat campaign volunteers and funds. Now Democrats have detached people from their conveyor belt. The consequences will be huge.

Reopening public schools the way Democrats are doing is not going to stave off this tsunami, either. New York City’s “reopening,” for example, includes several days per week of distasteful online instruction, as well as a rule that a school will close for two weeks any time two inmates test positive for COVID. That’s a recipe for endless school brownouts that will drive parents and kids nuts. Humans simply can’t live under this manufactured instability, by the pen and phone of whatever self-appointed petty little dictators feel like changing today.

Democrats are trying to have it both ways. They’ve learned that parents are not going to put up with putting school indefinitely on hold when everything from swimming to climbing stairs is more dangerous to children. But they also want to maintain the fiction that coronavirus is an emergency situation that requires tossing trillions of dollars in deficit funding out of helicopters, keeping people cooped up and restive as an election nears, and purposefully choking the nation’s best economy since before Barack Obama got his hands on it.

Democrats are their own worst enemy. The problem is, the rest of us are so often their collateral damage.


School Choice Is the Only Option

If there is a potential silver lining to the United States' experience with COVID-19, it can be found in the domain of primary and secondary education, where the demand for alternatives to traditional public schools is surging. The pandemic has both laid bare the US education gap and pointed the way to a solution.

By JOHN B. TAYLORProject Syndicate

STANFORD – After years of rumblings for change in US education, the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming a catalyst for improving the system. America’s educational divide – especially in grades K-12 (elementary through high school) – is now clearly visible for anyone to see. Disparities in quality and access to education are a major source of the economic, social, and racial inequalities that are driving so much social unrest from Austin and Oakland to Portland and Seattle. Whether they come from impoverished inner-city neighborhoods or the suburbs, the least-educated Americans have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic effects.

Fortunately, economist Thomas Sowell (my colleague at the Hoover Institution) has offered a solution. In his new book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies, he shows that schools with more autonomy and flexibility than traditional public schools are closing the educational divide, providing sorely needed choice, opportunity, and competition.

Sowell’s careful analysis of the data, which was available before the pandemic struck, shows that students in publicly funded but privately operated charter schools like Success Academy in New York City score remarkably higher on standardized achievement tests than do those in traditional public schools. The book contains reams of convincing evidence, all of which is explained beautifully and presented clearly in more than 90 pages of tables.

Sowell controls for many factors, including school location: students at charter schools within the same building as a traditional public school perform several times better on the same tests. And he supplements the hard data with simple evidence, such as the long waiting lists to get into the better performing charter schools. But if charter schools work so well, what explains the enemies mentioned in the book’s title? Critics of charter schools would list many reasons, but the main one, Sowell laments, is that public schools simply do not want the competition.

Will the COVID-19 crisis finally change things? There are already positive signs that it has. Last month, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled a new, five-year $85 million scholarship fund that will help students from lower-income families in Washington, DC go to schools of their choice. It is part of her department’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally funded school-choice initiative in the United States. The average income of families in the program is less than $27,000 per year, and more than 90% of students in it are African-American or Hispanic/Latino.

In another promising sign, US Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee recently introduced a bill to direct some of the educational relief funding in this year’s US Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to school-choice programs. That money would enable lower-income families that are hard-pressed by the pandemic to send their children to alternative schools. Among other things, the legislation would direct 10% of CARES Act educational funds toward scholarships for private-school tuition or reimbursement for homeschooling costs.

But most telling, perhaps, is the fact that many families and individuals are coming up with their own solutions. Consider the sudden blossoming of pandemic learning “pods,” wherein parents get together, find teachers, and form a class for kids in the neighborhood. Learning pods are a natural civil-society response to school closing in many districts in California and elsewhere. When schools suspend services, parents immediately will seek out alternative solutions, especially when they have concerns about their children’s ability to learn remotely.

Of course, learning pods already have enemies of their own, with critics complaining that the practice is unfair, harmful for traditional schools, or available only to those who can afford to hire teachers. But that is all the more reason to make high-quality, effective schools more widely accessible. Quashing new ideas is not the answer.

The struggle over pandemic-era education is quickly moving to statehouses. In June, as part of the new state budget, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill 98, which caps per-student state funding for charter and public schools at last year’s funding levels. The point is to limit charter school enrollments at a time when demand for alternatives to traditional public schools is surging. But with those public schools closing and resorting to remote teaching, students from lower-income households will be the ultimate victims.Sign up for our weekly newsletter, PS on Sunday

There are already at least 13,000 students waiting to enroll in charter schools in California. But owing to SB98, notes State Senator Melissa Melendez, “if you are in a school that is failing that is really too bad. You are just going to have to stay there and deal with it. That is not fair to the student or the parent.”

In his book, Sowell points out that, “Those who want to see quality education remain available to low-income minority neighborhoods must raise the question, again and again, when various policies and practices are proposed: ‘How is this going to affect the education of children?’”

If we all focus squarely on that question, the pandemic’s long-term impact on education could turn out to be highly beneficial.


Parents propose a new way to educate their children in the fall: School pods

By Bethany MandelWashington Examiner

It looks the same in all of my local Facebook groups: “Looking for a small group of 1st graders to go in on a homeschool type pod where we hire a retired or not comfortable to go back teacher to facilitate daily learning.” 

The volume of these posts led to a spin-off group of almost a thousand members with hardly any advertising. The whole objective of the spin-off is for families to advertise the “pods” they want to build based on age, location, the degree of caution they’re exerting, and study goals. And it’s chock-full of posts like the one above, sharing a theme: Parents are trying to connect with other parents and with teachers to supplement or completely replace the lessons planned in public schools.

With many school districts announcing they won’t return to the classroom until at least winter or late fall, with parents still reeling from the disaster that was distance learning last school year, parents are banding together and forming their own “micro-schools.” This is a grassroots plan not without controversy. 

A woman in the Bay Area in California wrote on the phenomenon, which is taking place near her as well. “This is maybe the fastest and most intense PURELY GRASSROOTS economic hard pivot I’ve seen, including the rise of the masking industry a few months ago,” she wrote. “Startups have nothing compared to thousands of moms on facebook trying to arrange for their kids’ education in a crisis with zero school district support.”

She continued, “The race and class considerations are COMPLETELY BONKERS. In fact, yesterday everything was about people organizing groups and finding matches– today the social justice discussion is already tearing these groups apart.”

Government intervention isn’t always the answer. Here’s what the government can do: allow parents and families the flexibility to take the money the state should be spending on their children and allow that money to follow those children to pods, tutors, or functioning online options. 

There are countless teachers and teachers’ unions protesting the idea of going back to work. If they aren’t comfortable, there is nobody forcing them back. And it’s time to call their bluff, as President Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers in 1981. When 11,000 of them went on strike, believing themselves to be irreplaceable, the president called their bluff and said, “Tell them when the strike’s over, they don’t have any jobs.”

In a sane world, teachers’ unions would not have outsized power to throw temper tantrums, and this is how we’d handle such a situation. We would fire any teacher not wishing to return to the classroom without a documented medical reason and funnel their salaries into a fund that students could then use to supplement their education.


New Jersey Public Schools To Teach LGBT Ideology In Every Subject

Garden State Equality claims its curriculum is for the good and safety of vulnerable children. Its teachings, however, result in the exact opposite.

By John HannaThe Federalist

A little more than a year ago, the New Jersey Legislature passed, and Gov. Phil Murphy signed, a law mandating the teaching of LGBT subject matter in public school curriculum, beginning in 2020-21.

In response to the law, the activist group Garden State Equality has prepared a curriculum, currently piloted in 12 New Jersey schools and planned to be employed statewide in the fall. This is consistent with Murphy’s vision. At Garden State Equality’s 2019 Ball, he said, “I applaud Garden State Equality for not only leading this effort, but for your continued work in helping to craft this curriculum.”

Garden State Equality (GSE) is an LGBT advocacy organization devoted to instilling its vision of “justice” through an “LGBT lens” in society. Consistent with its vision, GSE’s self-described “LGBT-inclusive” curriculum spans all subjects — math, English, social studies, health, science, visual and performing arts, and world languages — beginning in fifth grade. Having New Jersey’s 1.4 million public school students see the world through a LGBT lens is the goal in every class and, thus, now the goal of public education. This is well in excess of the curriculum law’s vague requirements.

In the way it is being implemented, the law is simply an instrument empowering GSE to accomplish its mission and vision, embedding sexual and gender ideology throughout curriculum. GSE envisions its curriculum “as a model that we can bring to every other state in the nation.”

School Boards Should Reject GSE’s Curriculum

A number of grassroots parent coalitions from across New Jersey, representing the state’s diversity, are raising awareness about and opposing the co-opting of public school curriculum for such ideological purposes. Historically, public schools have been the gateway to American society for immigrant families. But now, immigrant families all over New Jersey are deeply troubled and perplexed regarding the apparent goals of public education and the interests it serves.

New Jersey’s more than 600 school districts are not technically required to adopt GSE’s curriculum, although they are required to comply with the new state LGBT curriculum law. GSE is also substantially involved in drafting the New Jersey Department of Education’s “guidance” to schools about implementing the LGBT curriculum law. However, New Jersey school districts are not required to accept such state “guidance,” allowing districts to take a careful and educated approach to the curriculum law’s implementation.

The sexual and gender ideology advanced through GSE’s curriculum, and through its direct involvement in the state’s guidance to public schools, should be rejected by the boards of education of all New Jersey school districts for at least the following reasons.

1. It Denies Reality and Welcomes Irrationality

The stated goal of sexual and gender ideology is to “get rid of the gender binary.” At public hearings concerning the school curriculum, advocates consistently characterize such a goal as a “must.”

We cannot get rid of the gender binary, however, as humans are a sexually dimorphic species. This reality can be denied, silenced, threatened, and punished. But it cannot be “rid of.” The existence of every person is proof of the union of what is uniquely male and uniquely female. While GSE may reject this most basic truth of humanity, it cannot eradicate it. And New Jersey public schools should not partner with its futile efforts to do so.

Beyond denying the gender binary, GSE insists a biological male who calls himself a woman is, in fact, a woman. If that’s the case, what is a woman? “Woman” becomes a word without meaning — as is the case when a biological female claims she’s a man. GSE’s ideology commands students to use such words. This does not educate, enlighten, or advance understanding. It mandates irrationality within school curriculum.

2. It Imposes Its Will on Children’s Bodies

GSE claims its teachings are for the good and safety of vulnerable children. Those teachings, however, result in the exact opposite. GSE demands giving puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children, impeding the development of their bodies’ more than 37 trillion cells. It even demands the removal of healthy body parts, which is profoundly evil. These practices are the sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse of children, manipulating their bodies to conform to an ideology.

Teaching and endorsing such practices doesn’t educate, but makes students vulnerable to abuse. I don’t use the words “abuse” and “evil” to be inflammatory, but because they fit the described practices. GSE doesn’t accept the right of anyone to impede the imposition of its will on children’s minds and bodies, preventing even parents from taking actions to protect their own children from abusive measures.

3. It Is a Totalizing and Intolerant Ideology

The sexual and gender ideology of GSE and like-minded advocates addresses the most basic questions of life and meaning concerning our humanity. It even has its own language and vocabulary, which it expects everyone to adopt. It is a totalizing and comprehensive belief system, which functions as a religion. Instituting compulsory teaching within public schools effectively establishes such ideology as a state religion.

One of its core convictions is intolerance for any dissent. It mars those who disagree with epithets, such as “haters” and “bigots,” applying these labels to many families and students within every school district in New Jersey who would dare express disagreement. These accusations even include parents who object to giving their own child the harmful drugs commanded by sexual and gender activists.

The ideology insists that every new word or idea must be affirmed. Acceptance of sexual and gender ideology renders a person defenseless to its demands. None of this carries educational value.

Take a Stand to Protect Children

The Kelsey Coalition, formed in 2019 by “a group of concerned parents whose children have been harmed by transgender healthcare practices,” can serve as a resource to school districts, allowing them to make informed decisions for educating and protecting New Jersey students. As its website indicates, its membership now includes:

  • Young people who express profound regret that health care professionals offered them hormones and surgeries without helping them understand possible causes of their profound dysphoria or desire to transition;
  • Endocrinologists who warn about the effects of puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones, which are known to cause serious harm to children, including infertility and loss of sexual function;
  • Teachers who voice concerns that they are now required to change students’ names and pronouns without informing their parents, and who are wondering why so many children in their classroom identify as transgender;
  • Medical students who are challenging their training that instructs them to affirm without question young patients’ claims of being in the “wrong body”; and
  • Therapists who are worried about laws that now make it illegal for them to help their young clients explore why they believe they are transgender.

Surely, it would be highly immoral, unethical, and contrary to the educational and health interests of students not to inform them of the severe and irreparable harms that result from transgender physical interventions. Sexual and gender ideology pathologizes puberty, teaching that its suppression is a “treatment.” This article from an endocrinologist would educate students regarding life-altering effects on brain development, bone density, and sexual function, among other harms.

Regarding sex and gender, we are often warned against being on the “wrong side of history.” One day, the story will be told, and a chapter will cover what was done to children’s minds and bodies in the latter half of the 2010s into the 2020s. It will be included among the atrocities in the story of humanity’s inhumanity. It will be regarded with special horror because children will have been victimized in an impossible attempt to vindicate false adult beliefs and behaviors.

This historical moment provides an opportunity for every board of education member of every school district in New Jersey to be on the side of the story in which people courageously took a stand to protect children from such harms and horrors.


Ronald Reagan’s Address on the Explosion of the Challenger Shuttle

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

by Scott Vanatter

The night the Challenger Shuttle exploded, January 28, 1986, President Reagan was due to deliver the annual State of the Union. The White House decided to postpone that speech and instead the president delivered one of the most memorable presidential messages. Reagan spoke from the Oval Office at the White House. The speech was written by Peggy Noonan.

Until that day, he said, “We’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes….. We mourn their loss as a nation together. For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much.” Continue reading


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