Balow: Federal education critical race theory proposal ‘alarming federal overreach’

From left to right, Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, Gov. Mark Gordon and State Auditor Kristi Racines take part in a state government financial transparency working group meeting in Cheyenne, Wyo., Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (Photo: Mead Gruver / AP Photo)

By Derek Draplin, The Center Square

Wyoming’s chief education officer is opposing proposed U.S. Department of Education priorities that would incorporate critical race theory in education grant programs.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow called the proposed changes “an alarming move toward federal overreach into district curriculum” that “should be rebuked across party lines” in a statement Tuesday.

The priorities, published in the Federal Register in April, would apply to the application process for the DOE’s American History and Civics Education grant programs, which are offered to teachers and students.

“The [DOE] recognizes that COVID-19 – with its disproportionate impact on communities of color – and the ongoing national reckoning with systemic racism have highlighted the urgency of improving racial equity throughout our society, including in our education system,” the DOE said in its proposal.

The DOE added that “schools across the country are working to incorporate anti-racist practices into teaching and learning,” citing the controversial “1619 Project” and Ibram X. Kendi, a leading scholar and activist of anti-racism.

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Under the proposed priorities, applicants would be asked to “incorporate teaching and learning practices that reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.”

CRT holds that “the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans,” according to Britannica.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture says “to create an equal society, we must commit to making unbiased choices and being antiracist in all aspects of our lives.”

Balow said in a statement the proposed priorities are “an attempt to normalize teaching controversial and politically trendy theories about America’s history.”

“For good reason, public schools do not promote particular political ideologies or religions over others,” she added. “This federal rule attempts to break from that practice and use taxpayer dollars to do just that.”

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The DOE’s proposed priorities, which are open for public comment until May 19, are part of the Biden administration’s broader push to combat what it says is systemic racism.

State legislatures in Oklahoma and Idaho have passed legislation banning critical race theory from public school curriculums, while similar measures in Texas and Tennessee are still under debate.



The Center Square is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on state- and local-level government and economic reporting.