North Carolina is on blast from parents’ groups after the state school board approved a $7 million federal grant called the Preschool Handicapped Grant to be used for “Equity and Cultural Responsiveness in the Early Childhood Classroom.”
“Preying on disabled 3 year old children – getting them to participate in a political movement, and to hate themselves based on skin color in the process, shows our public schools to be more morally corrupt than all others,” Sloan Rachmuth, president of the group Education First Alliance, said in a press release. “With this vote, North Carolina’s schools became the most radically divisive system in America.”
Deniers of the idea that critical race theory has inspired K-12 initiatives sometimes claim it is only in law schools–far from special-needs preschools.
The money for handicapped preschoolers ultimately came from the federal Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The grant went to the University of North Carolina Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.
Even before the current grant approval, pre-school teachers were offered an “Equity and Cultural Responsiveness in the Early Childhood Classroom” training credited to “a joint project of the NC Department of Public Instruction, Office of Early Learning and UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute,” according to screenshots published by Education First Alliance and other groups.
A slide says teachers should help preschoolers with “building racial identity” and “Encourage the children to question social, scientific, and historical facts. We want children to question whether information is true.”
In a section titled “General Supervision of Children,” which governs “children’s health and safety,” a page with the same watermark says controlling a preschool class requires “understanding that ‘control’ is based in white norms and is associated with white supremacist thought; it is appropriate to focus on social emotional teaching and learning.”
Training materials also say “whiteness affects everything we bring to our interactions inside and outside the classroom. When we use Clarifying Conversations we deconstruct whiteness.”
North Carolina has a Republican-dominated legislature and its State Superintendent, Catherine Truitt, is also a Republican. Yet critical race theory has overtaken the state perhaps even more than most blue regions. That is in no small part because of the school of education at UNC. It is also because politicians are generally involved at the high-level policy stage, whereas the devil often resides in the details, which are often implemented by staff, consultants, and activists.
The state’s Republican lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson — who is black and strongly opposes critical race theory — has done the unglamorous work of delving into details to root it out, but others have merely given lip service to their opposition, with little follow-up.
Video of a January 5 meeting of the state board of education, where the $7 million contract was approved, shows staff effortlessly taking control of the conversation and swatting away concerns that a school board member attempted to bring to the superintendent.
Board member Amy White raised concerns about the preschool grant, but she was not specific in her objections, and was deferential to staff, saying she received an email about how the program contains “critical race theory” but “I don’t know whether that was factual or not, but I’m bringing that to the table to ask whether or not that is true.”
Superintendent Truitt, who previously told a Republican group she opposes critical race theory, had stepped out of the meeting, so a staff member issued a vague response that seemed to say that the training session was not a work product of the grant — even though the grant would pay the same people to create more content on the same topic.
The superintendent rejoined the meeting and a staff member pointed her to White’s question.
White explained concerns that, “Some of the ideologies posted on their website [are] not aligned with the board’s commitment to really focus on equity, as opposed to anything aligned with critical race theory.” The comment suggested a politician confused by the jargon and word games used by entrenched insiders, since equity is the education industry’s word for critical race theory.
The superintendent said, “This is wholly separate from anything that they [UNC’s Institute] are doing… When we talk about equity and culturally responsive training, it is specific to preschool children with disabilities.” That seemed to miss the point that the objection was why disabled three-year olds were being subject to “culturally responsive training” at all.
After the exchange, the Institute erased the evidence from its website, according to Dr. Nancy Andersen, North Carolina leader of No Left Turn in Education, who had emailed the board with concerns. “Hiding this controversial material after questions from the public were raised revealed the corrupt and ideological intentions behind these trainings,” Andersen said in a statement.
She faulted Truitt for not coming armed with detailed knowledge necessary to poke holes in excuses by staff or the university, despite her having walked the superintendent through them.
“I showed the Superintendent document after document from these trainings and that she chose to defend using $7M for the divisive program rather than delaying the vote as she promised also speaks volumes about the incompetence of the education leadership in the state,” she said.