Some questions:

Where is the politicization of teaching about race headed?
How is the Biden Administration moving forward their education agenda?
What policy-relevant professional development opportunities are available next week?

Washington Update, June 11, 2021


Dear Colleagues:

This week the politicization of teaching about race continued at a fevered pitch, as the Department of Education demonstrated a remarkable penchant for a laser focus in moving forward the agenda that Biden promised. This is looking more and more like a trademark of the Biden Administration.

1. The Attack on Critical Race Theory Continues

In a Washington Update last month we offered a distressing summary of how the teaching of our nation’s racial history has been thrown into the heart of the political arena.  Unfortunately, the trend is continuing and gaining traction. Last week, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee,  announced her support for two bills intended to block the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools.  This week Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced a resolution condemning the use of critical race theory in K-12 schools and teacher preparation programs. “Critical race theory has no place in American schools,” Blackburn said in a statement. “This resolution is an important step to prevent the far left from pushing their radical political agenda in our classrooms.”

On Thursday, the Florida Board of Education approved an amendment  that Gov. Ron DeSantis advanced in order to ban teaching certain ideas about race and history.  Florida now joins five other states that have passed legislation limiting how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, among other topics.

Dr. Dorinda Carter Andrews, professor and chairperson of the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University’s College of Education penned a response to the pushback on critical race theory, explaining what it is and why it is under attack. Dr. Carter Andrews notes, “Teaching young people how to be antiracist should not be seen as an attack on American values. It’s actually working in support of American ideals like inclusion and valuing diverse perspectives.” Michigan joins the growing list of states which have introduced legislation that would sharply limit classroom discussions on how race and racism have shaped American history. 

The adoption of these new state policies has caused legal experts to begin to examine how and if educators may be protected under the First Amendment. The short answer seems to be that educators have both limited protections and limited academic freedom to veer from the curriculum or infuse their own experiences and views into the classroom.  It is too early for any of the new legislation to have been challenged in court; however, that day will come. In the meantime, it is clear that the voices of educators need to be heard at the federal, state, and local levels.

2. The Department of Education Invests in Equity from K-12 through Higher Education

This week the Department of Education announced several steps to advance equity across the nation’s education system, spanning K-12 through higher education. In a statement, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona noted, “While COVID-19 has worsened many inequities in our schools and communities, we know that even before the pandemic, a high-quality education was out of reach for too many of our nation’s students and families. Our mission at the Department is to safely reopen schools for in-person learning, dramatically increase investments in communities that for too long have been furthest from opportunity, and reimagine our schools so that all students have their needs met. We must take bold action together to ensure our nation’s schools are defined not by disparities, but by equity and opportunity for all.”


Higher Education

3. Professional Development Opportunities

The US Department of Education has announced its first installment in their newest Equity Summit Series. The summit will feature panel discussions focused on best practices for building an equitable environment in our schools, and remarks from individuals who are working to make those equitable schools a reality. This first installment of the series will take place virtually on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 from 1:00-3:00PM EST and you can register here.

The US Department of Education is seeking public comment  regarding the administration of school discipline in PK-12 schools. The Department solicits these comments to inform determinations about what policy guidance, technical assistance, or other resources would assist schools that serve students in pre-K through grade 12 with improving school climate, safety, and ensuring equal access to education programs and activities. Comments are due by July 23, 2021 and you can submit those here

The Council for Exceptional Children and the Council for Administrators of Special Education are sponsoring the annual Special Education Legislative Summit (SELS). The convening will be held virtually the week of July 19-23.  It will feature town hall events with policy experts and Capitol Hill veterans, presentations by experts on key issues such as mental health and the shortage of special educators, and opportunities to engage directly with your Congressional delegation.  This event is free and open to the public. You can register here .

4. New Resources

Wishing you all the best.

Jane and Kait

See you on twitter @janewestdc and @Brennan_kait

Jane E. West Ph.D.
Education Policy Consultant
Cell: 202.812.9096
Twitter: @janewestdc

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