Republican A.G.s object to U.S. Department of Education proposal on teaching about racism

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody being interviews by reporters at the state Capitol in 2019. Credit: Scott Keeler

WASHINGTON — Twenty Republican attorneys general are voicing their disapproval over the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed priorities for teaching K-12 students about American history and civics education because they would include references to systemic racism and how the history of slavery has shaped the United States.

The A.G.s argue in a May 19 letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that public schools should not be given grant funds to teach about critical race theory, “including any projects that characterize the United States as irredeemably racist or founded on principles of racism (as opposed to principles of equality) or that purport to ascribe character traits, values, privileges, status, or beliefs, or that assign fault, blame, or bias, to a particular race or to an individual because of his or her race.”

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody hasn’t signed, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has been attacking the theory for months and has instructed the state Board of Education to ban it. Moody’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

“It’s offensive to the taxpayers that they would be asked to fund critical race theory — that they would asked to fund teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other,” the governor said Friday.

“If we have to play whack-a-mole all over the state stopping this critical race theory, we will do it,” he said.

Critical race theory suggests that racism is systematic and embedded in policies and the legal system. Scholars who study the issue focus on understanding how racism has shaped U.S. laws and how those actions have affected Black and other communities of color.

“Though the department does not overtly refer to [critical race theory] in its priorities, it is prioritizing teaching this highly controversial ideology through the vehicle of this grant program,” the A.G.s wrote. “This is hardly what Congress intended when it authorized this program.”

The attorneys general also warn against approving grants for teachings of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project from The New York Times Magazine.

The Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment.

The attorneys general who signed the letter include Steve Marshall of Alabama, Christopher Carr of Georgia, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Lynn Fitch of Mississippi, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Austin Knudsen of Montana, and David Yost of Ohio, among others.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misreported the number of A.G.s who signed the letter.