As analysts point to white fear as the motive behind the movement to dictate how race intersects with history is taught in K-12 schools, more than a dozen GOP lawmakers are backing a bill that would defund U.S. schools that promote critical race theory.
The NO Corrupt Racist Training (NO CRT) Act, proposed by Republican North Carolina U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, would allow parents to remove children from a public school where the theory is taught and redirect federal funding to a private school, home school, tutoring or other education options. It is the latest attempt by conservatives to block concepts from the theory from being taught in schools.
University of Maryland sociology professor and Brookings Institution senior fellow Rashawn Ray described what critical race theory is and is not in a recent piece for Brookings:
“CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.”
The CRT academic framework was developed by legal scholars in the late 1970s and 1980s but was recently pushed into the spotlight in response to the 1619 Project, a 2019 New York Times multimedia piece that explores how slavery was the capitalist cornerstone of the American experiment and drove the motivations of the men who founded the nation. Legal scholars behind CRT said it is currently being misunderstood and misrepresented by critics.
Former President Donald Trump pushed back against curricula that stemmed from the 1619 Project, announcing he would create the 1776 Commission to combat “anti-American historical revisionism” and “critical race theorists” in October. It was later canceled by President Joe Biden.
Trump also issued an executive order in September 2020 excluding from federal contracts any diversity and inclusion training interpreted as containing “divisive concepts,” “race or sex stereotyping,” and “race or sex scapegoating.” According to reports, more than 300 diversity and inclusion trainings were canceled because of the order.
Twenty-six states have considered policies to regulate how racial history can be taught in K-12 schools, according to Education Week. Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, and South Carolina have passed legislation blocking concepts from the theory. Only Idaho’s bill specifically mentions the term critical race theory.
GOP House representatives from Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Washington, Tennessee, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin have co-sponsored the NO CRT Act.
Some are promoting the bill as a pro-school choice measure.
“All families should have the choice to receive quality instruction regardless of income, ZIP code, or personal belief,” Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington said in a statement.
Bishop has coupled the proposal with another that would allow parents to redirect U.S. Department of Education funding for K-12 school choice options if their schools require masks.
A recent NBC News analysis of 33 cities and counties where school districts have faced criticism over diversity agendas found that each has become less white over the last 25 years. The report concluded that changing demographics sparked anxiety among white parents, creating the momentum behind the anti-critical race theory movement. NBC News reported more than 200 U.S. school districts had faced backlash for their inclusion and diversity initiatives.
While a national teachers union and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have endorsed critical race theory in public education, conservation groups argue that critical race theory creates division among students. Republican candidates in Virginia are promising to ban critical race theory calling it “anti-American indoctrination.”
Ray, who teaches critical race theory, said K-12 schools are not actually teaching the concepts. Ray added that even in his own lecture halls, students are alarmed at how uninformed they are about race.
Ray called the “narratives” about the theory “gross exaggerations.”
A June Rasmussen Reports national survey found that 43 percent of U.S. voters believe teaching critical race theory in public schools will make race relations in America worse. Another 24 percent think teaching the theory would improve race relations, while 17 percent think it will not make much difference and 16 percent are unsure.
About 54 percent of Black parents said they supported removing critical race theory from K-12 schools’ curriculum, a recent Manhattan Institute survey report shows. On the other hand, 61 percent of Hispanic parents and 73 percent of white parents said they supported removing the curriculum.
The NO CRT Act was introduced in Congress last Wednesday. It must be reviewed in committee before it is sent to the House or Senate for a full vote. It was assigned to the House Education and Labor committee, but policy analysts predict that it has 1 percent chance of clearing the committee.
A Black Republican from Utah, Rep. Burgess Owens, filed a similar bill in July called the Say No to Indoctrination Act. The measure prevents the use of federal funds to advance critical race theory concepts. The bill has 19 co-sponsors, but it has not been heard in committee as yet. Several other anti-critical race theory bills have stalled in Congress.
“From the Tulsa Race Massacre to Jim Crow and Juneteenth, young Americans deserve to learn about all significant events in our country’s history,” Owens said in a July 27 statement. “Critical Race Theory, however, teaches students that America is irredeemably racist and intrinsic characteristics like race, color, and national origin define you.”