Lawmaker urges state Superintendent to act on CRT

July 7, 2021

Ray Carter

A state senator is calling on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister to allow swift approval of regulations that will allow enforcement of a law banning Critical Race Theory in Oklahoma schools.

“We call upon Superintendent Hofmeister and the State Board of Education to move without delay to adopt rules at Monday’s special State Board of Education meeting,” said Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant. “Rules implementing HB 1775 are necessary to ensure that accuracy, transparency, and truthfulness are the foundational principles of Oklahoma’s education system—not indoctrination and discrimination.”

Bullard’s request comes only days after the National Education Association (NEA), the parent organization of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), openly embraced Critical Race Theory at its annual meeting and representative assembly. During that event, NEA delegates vowed to support and promote use of Critical Race Theory in the classroom through several business items adopted by attendees.

Among the items approved by NEA delegates was one that supported “increasing the implementation” of Critical Race Theory and similar material in “curriculum in pre-K-12 and higher education.”

Another proposal called for the union to “research the organizations attacking educators doing anti-racist work and/or use the research already done and put together a list of resources and recommendations for state affiliates, locals, and individual educators to utilize when they are attacked.”

A third business item required the union to “identify, compile, and share” existing “decolonizing the curriculum” resources with “educators seeking to be anti-racist in their classrooms.” A note of explanation accompanying that proposal declared that “decolonizing” resources align with the NEA’s goals of “eradicating white supremacy culture, and lifting up Black Lives Matter in school.”

A fourth measure approved by NEA members called on the union to share and publicize “information already available on critical race theory” and have a “a team of staffers” dedicated to helping union members “fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric.” That proposal also required the union to provide an in-depth study “that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society,” and to make clear that the union’s members “oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.”

Following nationwide publicity surrounding the union’s public embrace of Critical Race Theory, the NEA stripped its website of the text of all business items voted on by delegates at this year’s assembly, including those related to Critical Race Theory. However, copies of the original web pages remain on Internet archives.

House Bill 1775, by Rep. Kevin West and Bullard, banned Oklahoma’s K-12 schools from teaching several concepts associated with Critical Race Theory, including that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” or that individuals “should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.”

West said the NEA assembly demonstrates why HB 1775 was necessary.

“When we ran legislation to prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Oklahoma public schools, we heard multiple allegations that this wasn’t a problem and this wasn’t being taught in our schools,” said West, R-Moore. “Now we see that the largest teachers’ union in the nation, and the parent organization of the largest teachers’ union in the state, is pushing this harmful curriculum. This proves that Oklahoma Republican legislators were prudent to get in front of this issue and stop this increasing push to indoctrinate our children.”

In a press release, West described Critical Race Theory as “based on Marxist ideology that is designed to teach children to hate American exceptionalism and distrust others based on skin color or gender. Additionally it teaches that most laws and systems in America are historically rooted in the racist oppression of marginalized people groups. It promotes the theory of implicit bias and inherent racism due to one’s skin color.”

HB 1775 went into effect on July 1, but state agency regulations that will guide its implementation have not yet been approved by the State Board of Education. As chair of that board, Hofmeister sets the agenda for the group.

Bullard said prompt adoption of agency rules related to HB 1775 is needed to provide certainty, saying Oklahoma teachers “deserve to know how HB 1775 will be implemented for the 2021-22 school year; they need clarity on how the State Board of Education will enforce this law prior to the start of the school year. Likewise, parents and students have a right to know how this bill will be implemented in their child’s classroom.”

Some teachers and administrators have publicly vowed to ignore the law.

At this year’s NEA assembly, Kelli Roberts, an NEA delegate from Oklahoma, called on the union to “mobilize its members to oppose state laws that ban or penalize teachers with fines who teach history like ‘critical race theory’ in the classroom by highlighting the issue through existing appropriate media sources that will provide affiliates with tools such as talking points, or fact sheets, which will help them to fight against such laws.”

A report issued by the NEA stated that the union is already engaged in such activity.

Amidst that backdrop, Bullard said laws like HB 1775 are necessary to prevent true racism from taking root in Oklahoma classrooms and harming students through “the required acceptance of the principles of Critical Race Theory.”

“Oklahoma’s children are not defined by their sex or the color of their skin,” Bullard said. “HB 1775 ensures that every child has a right to attend school free from race or sex-based discrimination and the state superintendent has a duty to ensure this law is implemented with fidelity.”