The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) took funds from a program for disadvantaged children and gave it to 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones for two virtual speeches she made in May.
The group Oregonians for Liberty in Education issued a public records request only to find the ODE had paid Hannah-Jones “a total of $50,000…using resources from Every Day Matters,” the group’s website writes.
Every Day Matters is a program from the ODE focused on chronic absenteeism among disadvantaged children. Its website states:
Attendance matters for students at all grade levels. Students who attend school regularly are more likely to read at grade level, and to build a strong foundation as they move from preschool and kindergarten to high school. On the other hand, students who are chronically absent are at risk of falling behind. “Chronically absent” means a student is missing 10% of the school year. It doesn’t matter whether the absences are excused or unexcused. Each day represents lost time.
Every Day Matters offers helping hints such as “Tips for Getting Out the Door” as well as advice for parents on when children are too sick to attend school.
Oregonians for Liberty in Education reported:
On Friday May 7, Hannah-Jones spoke to Oregon’s teachers on “1619: Centering Black History and Black Futures in Oregon.” On Thursday May 13, she spoke first to students on “the importance of black history, as well as how this history has helped to build our society today” and then to teachers on “how the historical events detailed in the 1619 Project can and should inform how we create the conditions of belonging for Black students, families, and educators in Oregon.”
Oregonians for Liberty in Education contacted ODE Rules Coordinator Jeremy Wartz, as Ben Zeisloft of Campus Reform reported; Wartz acknowledged Hannah-Jones was paid $25,000 for each speech.
Wartz explained that staff members “authorized the expenses in line with the goals of the program and given the deep need for focal student groups, including black students and their families, to feel a sense of connection at this time and to support educators in creating the conditions for culturally responsive pedagogy and practice.”
ODE Communications Director Marc Siegel told Campus Reform, “Centering the experience of black students and families helps black students feel valued, reflects blacks’ contribution in American history which creates black student’s sense of belonging in the classroom.” He added that “feeling welcome in the classroom boosts attendance, which boosts academic performance. … At the center of Oregon’s work on equity is attention to what it means to belong and to create conditions in school engagement that support student belonging. The experiences of black students and families can and must be centered in our state, including the fullness of black histories and black futures.”
Oregonians for Liberty in Education stated, “Diverting funds from ‘Every Day Matters,’ ODE’s program to provide practical solutions to support showing up for school, is concerning. The program provides toolkits for teachers and families so at-risk students can connect to services and learn executive function skills and healthy habits. Is ODE claiming kids will skip school until the New York Times is put in charge of curriculum?”
“Campus Reform reached out to Hannah-Jones to ask whether she was aware that the Oregon Department of Education drew her payment from Every Day Matters and whether she accordingly plans to return the funds,” Zeisloft noted.