Critical Race Theory: South Dakota Lawmakers Move to ‘Reassert Control’

Mount Rushmore National Memorial on April 23, 2020, in Keystone, South Dakota. - The steep roads that wind their way to Mount Rushmore are completely deserted. The South Dakota tourist mecca attracts only a few clusters of visitors happy to escape the confinement caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by …
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A “letter of intent” from South Dakota’s Joint Committee on Appropriations (JCA) has informed state education bureaucrats they should refrain from applying for federal grants to teach U.S. history or civics until after the legislature can review these topics in its next session.

Education policy analyst Stanley Kurtz held up the move, to use the “letter of intent” to warn the state’s education department not to move ahead with federal history and civics grants without input from the legislature, as a “new tool” and a “model” for other states to prevent Democrats from forcing Critical Race Theory and “action civics” curricula on school districts throughout the country.

Critical Race Theory is a Marxist-based philosophy that embraces the concept that all social and cultural issues should be viewed through the lens of race and ethnicity.

“Action civics” is an initiative that seeks to indoctrinate K-12 students into woke “action” political organizing, under the guise of restoring “unity.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) was the first governor to sign the 1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools, which seeks to restore “patriotic education” in American schools.

The letter of intent, urged by State Sen. Ryan Maher (R), from the South Dakota JCA to Tiffany Sanderson, secretary of the Department of Education, states:

While the guidance does not have the direct force of statutory law, it rests solidly on a long-standing tradition of Legislative-Executive relationships in South Dakota and it will be used by the Joint Committee as one basis for the fiscal oversight of your agency and its continued funding.

The letter continues to inform the education department that lawmakers intend to consider legislation next year that would bar both action civics and Critical Race Theory:

It is the intent of JCA that applications for grants that would violate any of the prohibitions contained in this anticipated legislation should be eschewed until the South Dakota Legislature has had an opportunity to consider and dispose of legislative proposals pertaining to such topics during its 2022 session.

The letter also observes President Joe Biden’s proposed rule prioritizing federal grants in “American History and Civics Education,” one that held up the widely discredited New York Times’ “1619 Project” as a model for schools to teach children the United States is fundamentally a racist nation.

The JCA informed the state education department:

It is the intent of the JCA that no grants whose priorities will be governed by the current version, or any future or finalized version, of this proposed rule shall be applied for until the South Dakota Legislature has had an opportunity to consider and dispose of legislative proposals pertaining to education in American history and civics during its 2022 session.

Writing at National Review, Kurtz, one of the nation’s key analysts of the failures of progressive education reform movements, applauded the use of the “letter of intent,” to warn state education departments not to move ahead with federal history and civics grants, as a lesson learned from the battle against the Common Core State Standards.

Kurtz wrote the letter can be especially useful if state legislative sessions have already ended this year.

“It’s encouraging to see South Dakota legislators moving to reassert control over their state’s education system,” he said, and added:

That is a breakthrough directive that could help thwart the federal government’s attempts to force its own education priorities on the states. Leftist state education bureaucrats end-running legislatures is how we got Common Core, and how we may soon get action civics and Critical Race Theory.

State Rep. Linda Duba (D) was the only lawmaker to vote against the letter of intent, in a 16-1 vote, reported the Rapid City Journal.

Duba reportedly said she was shocked when the subject of the letter was raised.

“We’re trying to inject ourselves into education, and to me that’s not our job,” Duba said. “When I raised that, the response I got was that we can withhold funds [to influence policy].”

“Duba is wrong,” Kurtz asserted, however. “State legislative abdication on education is how we got the disastrous Common Core (of which Duba is a fan). It’s long past time that legislators stopped giving biased education bureaucrats a free pass.”

“The South Dakota letter of intent warning state bureaucrats to avoid federal grants in history and civics is a model for other states,” Kurtz wrote. “The Biden administration’s new rule, combined with priority criteria written into the proposed federal civics bills themselves, make it clear that Democrats will use federal grants to force leftist action civics and Critical Race Theory on every state and school district in this country.”


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