The House Subcommittee on Civil Rights & Civil Liberties held a hearing in late May to examine systemic attacks by the far right to destabilize public education in America.
Led by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the hearing, “Free Speech Under Attack (Part II): Curriculum Sabotage and Classroom Censorship,” revealed the agenda of far-right politicians: attacking public education and replacing it with school vouchers for private, religious schools.
Raskin described anti-public-education politicians’ coordinated assault on public schools for teaching so-called “critical race theory” (CRT). As numerous commentators have pointed out, these politicians’ attacks are based on outright lies: CRT is an academic framework taught in law schools and at the graduate level, not K-12 public schools, and there is no widespread proof that K-12 educators are teaching children these concepts or even using curriculum materials informed by CRT, which they tacitly label discussion of race relations of any kind, past or present.
Politicians are also proposing and passing anti-LGBTQ policies taking rights away from LGBTQ students and teachers. Like the CRT “controversy,” these proposals arise from falsehoods about teachers recruiting, indoctrinating and “grooming” students to turn gay.
“This effort began with a right-wing propagandist named Chris Rufo who decided to use Critical Race Theory as the cover and the villain for his campaign to destroy public education in America,” Raskin noted.
As Rufo said in a speech he titled “Laying Siege to the Institutions”: “To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from the premise of universal public school distrust.”
Americans United submitted testimony for the hearing record to inform lawmakers about these schemes to undermine public education. In its testimony, AU laid bare the truth that these politicians want to siphon limited taxpayer funding away from public schools to fund the education of a few students they favor at private, mostly religious, schools, weakening our public education system, endangering students’ rights and perpetuating segregation and discrimination. And AU clarified that private school vouchers would not solve these fake controversies, let alone the real challenges that public schools face.
“Open and nondiscriminatory in their acceptance of all students, our public schools, which serve 90% of the nation’s students, are a unifying factor among diverse communities in our society,” asserted AU’s testimony. “Voucher programs siphon limited funding away from public schools to fund the education of a few students at private schools, weakening our public education system, endangering students’ rights, and perpetuating segregation and discrimination. While this outcome may be acceptable and even desirable to anti-CRT and anti-LGBTQ-rights activists, anyone who supports public education as a pillar of our democracy must oppose private school vouchers.”
Added the testimony, “Even if the attacks on teaching history or valuing diversity in public school were legitimate, private school voucher programs would not be a ‘solution’. To the contrary, they undermine public education, fail to improve students’ achievement, lack accountability, and violate the religious freedom of taxpayers.”