February 6, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Republicans grill Biden education secretary on use of COVID funds for woke initiatives

FIRST ON FOX: Republicans are demanding more information from President Biden’s Department of Education amid reports that blue states across the country are using billions of taxpayer dollars from the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package to push core tenets of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, which the Democrats passed in March 2021 without any Republican support, was billed by the Democratic Party as a necessity for reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Fox News Digital reported in April, the law provided over $122 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which helped multiple states implement “implicit bias” and “anti-racism” training, among other programs.

In a letter Tuesday to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Republicans said they are investigating “the misuse of COVID-19 relief dollars intended for virus mitigation, the safe reopening of schools, and addressing catastrophic learning loss.”

The letter, signed by Republican Rep. James Comer, a ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, a ranking member of the Committee Education and Labor, cited one example from Newburyport, Massachusetts, where the school district there spent at least $56,800 in ESSER funds to hire a consultant who apparently coached a high school principal to use a racial slur in front of other faculty members in order to help him “lean” into his “discomfort.”

CALIFORNIA, NEW YORK, ILLINOIS USED COVID-19 RELIEF FUNDS TO PUSH CRT IN SCHOOLS

“This is not what federal COVID aid was intended for, but according to information obtained by Committee Republicans, taxpayer dollars paid for this session,” the letter stated. “Moreover, under no circumstances should the American people fund the ‘coaching’ of educators to use racial slurs for any purpose and/or at any time. This is both a waste and a misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

The letter gives Cardona until Oct. 25 to provide all documents and communications related to the approval of Massachusetts’s plan for ESSER funds, as well as all documents and communications related to the “review of ESSER funds used to pay consultants for various professional development sessions in state and local school districts.”

Fox News Digital previously reported that in August 2021, the Education Department published a report offering strategies for how states should use ARP funds to support the return to in-person learning, explaining that some school systems may see a need for a “culture shift” to ensure schools “reopen equitably for all students.” 

The report recommended that states use ARP funding, in part, to address the “reasons families of color have cited for not returning to in-person learning,” such as “fears of xenophobic and racist harassment.” 

WHAT IS CRITICAL RACE THEORY?

The DoE report said school districts should “implement strategies designed for systemic change at the local and school level.”

“Educators should evaluate and reflect on their school culture, climate, and policies and can use well-designed survey tools to learn what practices may be keeping all students from feeling safe, included, and academically challenged and supported,” the report said. “Based on this information, they should commit to making improvements to achieve the goal of safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments.”

At least $46.5 billion from the ARP ESSER fund has been allocated to 13 states, including California, New York and Illinois, that are planning to use the funds to implement CRT in their schools.

The California Department of Education was awarded $15.1 billion in ARP ESSER funding to implement its schools reopening plan, which included $1.5 billion for training resources for school staff regarding “high-need topics,” like “implicit bias training.”

The California DoE used funds to “increase educator training and resources” in subjects such as “anti-bias strategies,” “environmental literacy,” “ethnic studies,” and “LGBTQ+ cultural competency,” according to the plan.

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) was awarded $9 billion in ARP ESSER funding to implement its reopening plan, which supported “putting DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) at the heart of NYSED’s work with” all local education agencies.

The approved plan included “providing staff development on topics such as culturally responsive sustaining instruction and student support practices, privilege, implicit bias, and reactions in times of stress.” It also recommended that schools use social-emotional learning [SEL] to “support the work of anti-racism and anti-bias.”

EPA USED COVID-19 RELIEF FUNDS FOR GRANTS PROMOTING ‘GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE,’ ‘ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE’

The plan said the New York State Board of Regents “is committed to creating an ecosystem of success built upon a foundation of diversity, equity, inclusion, access, opportunity, innovation, trust, respect, caring, relationship-building, and much more. It is the policy of the Board to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all NYS districts and schools through the budgeting process, allocation of resources, and development of Board policies…”

The plan, quoting the Board’s DEI framework, said “equity warriors” were currently working to create “more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive” school communities across the state, and that their efforts should be “recognized and applauded.”

In Illinois, $5.1 billion in ARP ESSER funding was awarded to the state Board of Education for its reopening plan that implemented strategies with “an emphasis on equity and diversity.” The plan provided school districts with training on topics like “anti-racism” and equity, and allocated a percentage of funds to create a statewide coalition to help school districts offer grants for projects addressing “issues pertaining to interrupted learning and support groups that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic (e.g., homeless, LGBQT [sic], marginalized communities).”

There are at least nine other states, including Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia, that have used or plan to use billions of dollars in ARP funding for their state education departments to implement certain tenets of CRT.

Economists on both sides of the political aisle have blamed the $1.9 trillion ARP for overheating the economy and contributing to the current inflation crisis.

The Education Department told Fox News Digital in April that curriculum decisions are made at the local level, not by the federal agency.

“The Department is not encouraging the use of American Rescue Plan funds to teach CRT—and any claim to the contrary is patently false,” the department said at the time. “The Department believes politicians should stay out of the curriculum decisions that are best made at the local level, in engagement with parents, families, and local school communities.”


Source: Politics