(Casey Harper, The Center Square) A new trio of House education bills would push back on Critical Race Theory and federal rules in local public schools, the latest in an ongoing battle led by Republicans to respond to curriculum and policy changes in education.
U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., introduced the three new education bills, including the Defending Students’ Civil Rights Act, which codifies that teaching CRT is illegal discrimination; as well as the Empowering Parents Act, which allows parents to hold schools accountable if those schools embrace more progressive racial or gender ideology in the classroom.
Good also introduced the Empowering Local Curriculum Act, which says schools receiving federal dollars cannot be forced to include CRT in their curriculum.
“These three bills would combat federal encroachment in curriculum, protect students from the harmful ideology of Critical Race Theory, and defend parents’ God-given right to educate their children,” Good’s office said.
CRT is an increasingly controversial set of ideas based on the idea that the U.S. is an inherently racist country and always has been and that the U.S. and its institutions can largely be viewed through that lens.
“Parents know what is best for their students and have primary responsibility for their children’s education,” Good said. “Local school boards should represent the will of the parents, not teachers unions, the Biden Administration or DC bureaucrats. I am fighting back against the Biden Administration’s overreach into the classroom with my back-to-school agenda that empowers parents, protects students from racist curriculum, and permits children to focus on their academic pursuits.”
The bills come amid a nationwide debate over the role of parents in their kids’ education. Parents have begun organizing and protesting at school boards, raising concerns about school curriculum and sexualized books in school libraries.
Those parents have often been brushed aside in recent years, sometimes caught on camera in videos that went viral and fueled the “parental rights” movement.
Democrats have pushed back, saying teachers know best what curriculum is needed and that the effort to ban books that Republicans say are age-inappropriate is a form of censorship.
In recent years, equity and CRT ideology in education has become increasingly common with billions of taxpayer dollars behind it.
House Republicans launched an inquiry last year after reports showed that federal funding passed for COVID-related student learning loss was spent to promote “equity warriors,” critical race theory teachings and more at local schools.
The Center Square previously reported on similar funding at the collegiate level. Federal grant documents show that the U.S. Department of Education awarded millions of dollars to a Florida-based education program that trains future educators and other professionals in CRT.
Another similar program, “The Research Institute for Scholars of Equity,” received millions of taxpayer dollars for training college students in critical race theory at several higher educational institutions.
Good is not the only lawmaker raising concerns about progressive ideology in schools and introducing legislation.
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., in July reintroduced the Protect Equality and Civics Education Act, a bill that would prevent tax dollars from promoting CRT within the Department of Education’s American history guidelines, which have increasingly incorporated those ideas.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has also introduced the Combating Racist Training in the Military Act as well as the Stop Critical Race Theory Act.
Good’s legislative effort has received support from several family and education groups.
“The Empowering Local Curriculum Act will end funding for schools promoting divisive ideologies like Critical Race theory that separate students into opposing categories of victims vs oppressors simply based on the color of their skin,” Terry Schilling, president of American Principles Project, said in a statement.
“The Defending Students’ Civil Rights Act clarifies that position further by outlining how such a practice violates these children’s Civil Rights, an offense actionable by law. And finally, the Empowering Parents Act ensures that these children, their rights, and their innocence are being protected, not by a distant bureaucracy that can be bought out by well-funded organizations, but by those who have their best interests at heart: their parents.”
Matt Buckham, executive director for Institute for Educational Reform, backed the bills as well, calling out a recurring point of criticism: politicization of schools.
“Government teacher unions push the toxic political agenda of the Democratic party along with their radical lies through Critical Race Theory and woke ideology,” Buckman said in a statement.