Year in Review: Critical Race Theory, Mask Mandates, and Leandro Funding for a Turbulent 2021 in Education
Critical race theory and face mask mandates dominated the state’s education headlines in 2021, even as students and teachers struggled to recover from a year of learning remotely who saw standardized test scores drop to new lows.
Racial and economic inequalities in education, exposed by the pandemic, were quickly put on the back burner by a large minority of angry parents who complained that school boards were trampling on their rights by forcing students to wear blankets. faces to slow the spread of highly transmissible COVID. -19 viruses.
Disparities in high-speed internet connections and school funding have cast an unflattering light on the inequality of resources found in many low-wealth rural districts of the state.
In Buncombe County, the school district’s face mask mandate angered a group of parents so much that they attempted to take over the school board. The false move quickly became one of the weak points of the pandemic.
The unruly crowd forced the Board of Education to call for a break; audience members then pretended to introduce themselves and nominate themselves to the board.
In Greensboro, the Guilford County Board of Education and Superintendent Sharon Contreras have received threats due to the district’s face mask mandate. The board has increased security at school board meetings and for the superintendent.
Policy Watch reported on the concerted effort in North Carolina by right-wing political operatives for using face mask mandates and Critical Race Theory (CRT) as wedge issues to turn this year’s local elections and mid-terms of 2022 in favor of the GOP.
The strategy worked flawlessly in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin, a political newcomer, defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor, in a hotly contested governor race in which Youngkin’s opposition to CRT became a winning question.
Most educators say CRT, an academic discipline that examines how racism has shaped American law and public policy, is not taught in K-12 classes.
Nevertheless, after Youngkin’s victory, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Education Catherine Truitt shared a celebratory tweet and vowed to stand up for the same “principles” as Youngkin.
During tours of the Republican stronghold of North Carolina this year, Truitt promised GOP loyalists that she would fight to remove CRT from classrooms.
“As superintendent, I will continue to do all I can to stop CRT and eradicate it from classrooms” Truitt said during a “meet and greet” in June with Republicans in Orange County. “Republicans in North Carolina are united on this.”
Critical breed theory
The fact that educators say CRT is not taught in K-12 schools did not prevent the Republican-led North Carolina-led General Assembly from approving House Bill 324 to restrict what students could learn about the racial history of the nation.
And that hasn’t stopped parents, mostly whites but also blacks, from showing up at local school board meetings to complain that their children are being brainwashed with the CRT. When asked to explain the CRT, however, most could not.
Many of them argue that the CRT teaches impressionable young college students that America and white people are inherently and irreparably racist.
But critics of HB 324 and other similar laws passed across the country argue that it’s important for children to learn hard truths about American racism, and that historically the country has been flawed in its treatment of blacks and other people of color.
HB 324 included 13 concepts that teachers would be prohibited from “promoting” in North Carolina classrooms. The concept that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex, and that an” individual, solely because of race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive “was among prohibited subjects.
Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the bill. He said the CRT debate had distracted lawmakers from the serious work of supporting educators and students during a global pandemic that has challenged educators and students.
The legislature should be “focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning and investing in our public schools,” Cooper said in a statement. “Instead, this bill pushes a calculated and conspiratorial policy into public education.”
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, a Republican from Greensboro and the state’s first black lieutenant governor, and State Senate Head Phil Berger, a Republican from Rockingham, openly opposed the CRT.
“I oppose it and will fight it with whatever I have, because I believe the doctrine is undoing the framework that has produced the most successful self-government experiment in human history. “Berger said in July as state lawmakers considered HB 324.
Meanwhile, Robinson, unhappy with the State Board of Education’s adoption of new standards for social studies that he says are permeated with CRT, launched the task force “Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Teachers and Students (FACTS) ”to give students, teachers and parents a tool to report perceived cases of bias or indoctrination in public schools.
Charlotte educator Justin Parmenter reviewed over 500 of the comments submitted to the task force, however, and found many of them criticizing Robinson for leading a “shameful political witch hunt.”
The long-running lawsuit over funding the state’s schools became a prominent education topic at the end of the year as lawmakers began budget negotiations.
The big question centered on the recommended $ 5.6 billion in funding for new school improvements. by a private consultant over the next eight years would be included in the 2021-2022 state budgets.
The first two years of the school improvement plan provides $ 1.7 billion in new education dollars. The newly enacted state budget, however, only funds 53% of the school improvement plan this school year and drops to 43% next year, according to Kris Nordstrom, senior policy analyst at the Education & Project. Law of the North Carolina Justice Center. (Note: Policy Watch is a project of the Justice Center.)
Governor Cooper said the state, with more than $ 6 billion in reserves, had a “unique opportunity” to “transform and strengthen” public schools.
It was not to be.
Despite Superior Court Judge David Lee’s order to lawmakers to fully fund the plan, the state’s Republican leadership resisted.
The case is now tangled up in court after the state appeals court blocked Lee’s order, ruling that the judge had no power to order the state to transfer 1.7 billion dollars from its rainy day account to fund the first two years of the eight-year school improvement plan. The Court of Appeal’s decision does not affect Lee’s conclusion that the funding he ordered is necessary to help the state meet its constitutional obligation to provide state children with a solid basic education.
Lee had ordered several North Carolina officials, Treasurer Dale Folwell, Comptroller Linda Combs and Budget Director Charles Perusse to release state money to fund the first two years of an improvement plan. statewide schools that grew out of Leandro v. State of North Carolina.
The issue of funding schools will likely be resolved by the state Supreme Court, which would be asked to determine whether Lee has the power to order the legislature to fund the Leandro plan.
the Leandro The case began more than 25 years ago after five rural low-income county school districts sued the state, arguing they could not increase the tax revenues needed to provide students with a quality education.
In 1997, the state’s Supreme Court issued a ruling, later reconfirmed in 2004, in which it ruled that every child has the right to a “solid basic education” which includes competent and well-trained teachers and principals. and equitable access to resources.
The New Year is likely to bring the same on the education front as Democrats and Republicans face off in the midterm elections. Look for more friction on critical race theory and mandated face masks as the Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus.
Lawmakers will also continue controversial debates over school funding and whether Justice Lee has the power to order the General Assembly to fulfill its constitutional mandate to provide North Carolina’s children with a basic education. solid.