Calling it “big-government overreach” and a slippery slope, some educators are decrying new state legislation that would effectively ban so-called critical race theory discussions in Kentucky’s classrooms, undermining teachers and schools if ultimately enacted, they say.
“Legislating curriculum is a slippery slope,” Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields said in a statement to the Daily News.
Fields said the legislation would erode confidence in public schools if enacted and undercut the trust school districts have carefully worked to build with their communities. In Kentucky, curriculum decisions are made at the school level by site-based councils made up of parents and teachers, while the state sets overarching academic standards of what students should generally know at each grade level.
Fields also questioned the timing of the pre-filed legislation, given that the state’s next lawmaking session doesn’t begin until early next year.
“An announcement about pre-filed education legislation six months prior to the session is mostly a distraction to the work of educators preparing for the upcoming school year,” Fields said.
Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton said the measure isn’t needed.
“Governance structures already exist at the local level which have proven effective in addressing similar concerns referenced within the language of this bill draft. From experience, local decision-making is critical to the success of our schools because it empowers our parents and community partners to invest their time and resources into our students and staff,” Clayton told the Daily News.
On Tuesday, Republican state Rep. Joe Fischer of Fort Thomas filed Bill Request 60, which said “any citizen residing within or having a student enrolled in a local school district may file a complaint with the attorney general” to report a possible violation of the law.
Should the attorney general ultimately find that a violation occurred, the Kentucky Department of Education could be ordered to withhold up to $5,000 a day in school funding “from the date the notice is issued through the date the attorney general determines the violation is remedied,” the bill request said.
B.R. 60 would bar schools from including at least a dozen concepts in their curriculum, courses or instructional programs.
•One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
•An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
•An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
•An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.
•Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.
•The Commonwealth or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.
B.R. 60 also poses consequences for public universities and colleges in Kentucky, stipulating that “no student enrolled at a public postsecondary education institution shall be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. Any orientation or requirement that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex shall be prohibited.”
The legislation itself does not mention “critical race theory.” However, in a news release from the Kentucky House Majority Caucus, Fischer explicitly condemned critical race theory, stating that it “is not based on facts or evidence but rather serves as a dangerous diversion from education priorities that are actually proven to eliminate disparities.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the theory as an “intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color ... ”
B.R. 60 drew criticism from Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass, who told the Courier-Journal that he condemns efforts to “limit free speech” and “politically-driven efforts to micromanage our local classroom teachers ... I am disappointed to see efforts to limit the free exchange of ideas enshrined in our Constitution and big-government overreach into local classrooms emerge from our state legislators.”