CRT part of coordinated national effort to damage public schools
September 30, 2022
By Terry Gilbert
Democrat candidate for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction
This is the story of how one man and an obscure analytical tool came to threaten our public schools. We should have learned our lesson with private prisons, but these profiteers don’t give up, and now they’re after our children. Their hot new weapon is Critical Race Theory (CRT).
CRT developed in the 1970s as a way of viewing race through an institutional lens.
Modern-day CRT was born during the pandemic, when an obscure filmmaker from Gig Harbor, Washington, was watching old videos. Chris Rufo came across a reference to CRT and quickly saw its potential as a scare tactic to undermine public schools and advance his agenda of private, for-profit education.
He found an ally in Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and was soon making headlines. In a flamboyant speech he exhorted his audience to be “ruthless and brutal.”
“To get to universal school choice,” he said, “you need to start with universal public school distrust.”
The notion took off, going from zero to 75-percent name identification in just 18 months, and becoming part of the spiel for virtually every right-wing candidate.
Here’s how it works:
• The threat of CRT scares parents into doubting their schools. That primes the pump for lawmakers to pass voucher laws, giving taxpayer money directly to frightened parents to choose their own schools.
• Losing enrollment and facing critical budget cuts, public schools go into a death spiral, replaced by a scattered network of private charters, religious schools and homeschooling.
• The new schools contract with “Educational Management Organizations” for services ranging from testing and transportation to the entire curriculum. Economists call these EMOs an “emerging market” for investors.
The beauty of CRT is that it marries a pair of strange bedfellows: ideological libertarians who disavow “government” schools, and fat-cat investors seeking new profit streams.
This agenda is not home-grown. It rests on such innocent-sounding groups as Education Reform Now and Families for Excellent Schools. These groups funnel “dark money” to state entities like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which uses cookie-cutter language to craft and promote voucher legislation.
It would be a mistake to take this threat lightly, or write it off as a right-wing pipe dream. As of 2021, 41 states had passed or were considering anti-CRT bills, and 32 already had school voucher programs.
Before we go down this road, let’s consider where public education came from, and what purpose it serves. Idaho’s Constitution is very clear: “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho to establish and maintain a general uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”
Public schools are the heart and soul of our communities and the glue that holds our democracy together. We give them up at our peril.
Mike Weland, Publisher
6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
A 9B Media LLC publication
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