Republican AGs object to U.S. Department of Education proposal on teaching about racism

Idaho’s Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was among those to sign the letter

By: - May 23, 2021 10:16 am
Door to the Office of the Attorney General at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021.

Door to the Office of the Attorney General at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

WASHINGTON — More than two dozen Republican attorneys general are voicing their disapproval over the Department of Education’s proposed priorities for teaching K-12 students about American history and civics education because they would include references to systemic racism and how the history of slavery has shaped the U.S.

The state attorneys general argue in a May 19 letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that public schools should not be given grant funds to teach about critical race theory, “including any projects that characterize the United States as irredeemably racist or founded on principles of racism (as opposed to principles of equality) or that purport to ascribe character traits, values, privileges, status, or beliefs, or that assign fault, blame, or bias, to a particular race or to an individual because of his or her race.” 

Critical race theory says that racism is systematic and embedded in policies and the legal system. Scholars who study the issue focus on understanding how racism has shaped U.S. laws and how those actions have affected Black communities and communities of color. 

“Though the department does not overtly refer to (Critical Race Theory) in its priorities, it is prioritizing teaching this highly controversial ideology through the vehicle of this grant program,” the AGs wrote. “This is hardly what Congress intended when it authorized this program.”

The attorneys general also warn against approving grants for teachings of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 project from the New York Times Magazine. 

The Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment. 

The attorneys general who signed the letter include Mark Brnovich of Arizona, Christopher Carr of Georgia, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Austin Knudsen of Montana and David Yost of Ohio, among others.

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana Figueroa is a reporter in the States Newsroom Washington, D.C, bureau. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Ariana covered public health and chemical policy on Capitol Hill for E&E News. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune and NPR. She is a graduate of the University of Florida.

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