By Meg Kilgannon
“Local control” of public schools is a hallmark of the American educational system. Community involvement and public accountability are held as paramount. In such a system, elected school boards should ensure the representation of all views in the making of school policies. Our system of government should mean that the natural tension and debate between different ideas and educational philosophies resolves into an agreement on goals that benefit all students and the community as a whole. The use of public funding should require transparency in how tax dollars are spent for educational purposes. Good governance practices should mean parents have easy access to curricula and test scores while being respected as the primary educators of their children.
That’s how things should work, in theory. Of course, we know the reality is much different and that one side of the political aisle tends to influence education more than another. But ideally, public schools would require and allow for public accountability and local parental control.
That’s a big part of what makes the recent action by the U.S. Department of Justice so odious. And even worse is the apparent conflict of interest Attorney General Merrick Garland has when he classifies parents who oppose political indoctrination in schools as potential threats worthy of a federal law enforcement investigation. It turns out the very programs and racially divisive concepts that have parents lining up at school board meetings are sold to major school systems across the country by Garland’s son-in-law, Xan Tanner.
We have written about the pressure campaign against schools mounted by leftist activists and LGBTQ organizations. Dominated by national left-wing and progressive organizations, the nonprofit educational industrial complex seeks to influence our education system. Infiltrating educational systems on the local level means access to both minds and money. Education nonprofits want to shape the thinking of the next generation and direct schools’ resources to that end. There are hundreds of such groups — all with a progressive agenda to shape the worldview of the next generation of adults while they are still children.
Groups with enough funding to offer schools “free” resources can fly under the radar. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice program is a prime example. SPLC resources are widely used in public, private and charter schools to promote “white supremacy” and “systemic racism” narratives in the name of social justice.
But for-profit groups like Garland-adjacent Panorama Education charge hefty fees to provide support for social justice-themed Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in public schools. School systems flush with COVID relief cash are permitted to spend that money on SEL programs to address the mental health crisis children face after the shutdowns and lockdowns of 2020. The movement in the 1990s and early 2000s for “character education” was largely replaced by SEL — the dangers of which FRC has warned about for many years.
School administrators deny the existence of CRT in public schools and defend SEL as simply empowering students with tools for “behavior management,” so they are “ready to learn.” Parents are told, “There’s nothing to see here,” when in fact, SEL programs are promoting CRT concepts and goals as part of their programming.
Fortunately, parents continue to push back. Moms and dads across America are uncovering the connections between SEL and CRT. Members of Congress, too, are launching investigations and calling out this egregious abuse of power by the Department of Justice. We continue to support the efforts of local parents to be engaged with their school systems through the many resources available at www.frcaction.org/schools. Finally, if you have an example of a problem with your school system, please share it with us at [email protected].
To read more about the SPLC’s radical “Learning for Justice” program in our newly-released resource, click here.