LINCOLN — Three weeks before an election in which concerns about education could drive Republican turnout, five conservative senators on Monday called for a legislative inquiry into Nebraska’s Department of Education.
The senators said one of their employees in June found a link to a New York University Center for Culturally Responsive Education on “Launch Nebraska,” a website of the US Department of Education. state designed for reopening schools during the pandemic. With two or three clicks on the NYU website, they found a paper advocating critical race theory and discussing racial justice. The document, however, was never directly accessible on the state’s website.
State senses Dave Murman of Glenvil, Steve Erdman of Bayard, Robert Clements of Elmwood, Steve Halloran of Hastings and Myron Dorn of Adams said they want the Legislative Education Committee investigation of who shared the link and what else was shared. They also said they wanted to know who might have promoted a new sex education curriculum.
“After a year of operation, ‘Launch Nebraska’ has released left-wing agenda items completely alien to public schools in Nebraska before the pandemic…” Murman said. “Now we have uncovered documents that show unequivocally, unequivocally, that the department also promoted critical race theory.”
Erdman said the department needed to be brought under control.
Nebraska Department of Education spokesman David Jespersen said the agency removed the link to the NYU center in June after Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office raised concerns about material found elsewhere on the NYU site. Jespersen said the department found no evidence that teachers or schools used the documents.
He said the department “reviewed” the governor’s concerns “and we agreed.” Governor’s office spokeswoman Alex Reuss confirmed the summer conversation on Monday.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Reuss said. “When the governor’s office became aware of the information contained on the site to which the link led, we contacted the commissioner to let him know. From there, it looks like they removed that link as a resource. »
The timing of the push for an investigation aligns with a nationally and locally organized GOP political effort to energize conservative parents. Much of the effort draws inspiration from the success of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Purple State, whose 2021 campaign asked similar questions about nurturing until victory.
Critical race theorists essentially believe that race in America should be seen through a color-conscious lens, not a blind one. Scholars have described it as a way to analyze, explain, and realistically address the persistence of racism in economic, social, and governmental structures.
Politicians nationwide have expanded that definition to include efforts to teach the evils of racism and how to ward it off — what the K-12 world calls anti-racism.
Murman, when asked by reporters why senators waited four months to request an investigation instead of doing so before the start of the school year, said they needed more time. He later acknowledged that a call for an investigation could potentially affect State Board of Education races in November.
Murman said if an investigation was opened, he did not expect it to start any sooner than the next legislative session in January. Murman, Erdman, Clements and Halloran did not contact the state Education Department before calling the investigation, officials confirmed.
Murman called the Education Committee Chair, State Senator Lynne Walz of Fremont, 10 minutes before Monday’s press conference, she said, days after the first senators. discussed the potential investigation with The Daily Caller, a political website founded by conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson.
Walz, an officially nonpartisan Democrat in the Legislature, said she’s frustrated that senators, including some like Murman on her committee, are wasting time on made-up questions instead of working to fight the loss of power. learning and to ensure that schools meet future workforce needs. companies.
“You would think if there was a serious concern they would bring this to me,” Walz said of the call for an investigation. “I had to find out about social networks. I understand that we are three weeks away from a really contentious election.
Jespersen, speaking on behalf of the Department of Education, said the Nebraska website link, which has been up for months, provides “a resource for teachers as they return to class to look through the ‘focus on their students’, because COVID-19 has affected different populations differently.
Communities of color in Nebraska and nationally have had higher rates of death and serious injury from COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The department has been inundated with requests for public records since critical race theory and sex education became divisive political issues. He had no rough estimate, but said the number had increased “exponentially”. He said the department welcomes public comment on the links and sources he shares.
“We try to verify all the sources we provide on our website,” Jespersen said. “But the nature of the internet is that the farther you click away, the further away you are from the original intended source.”
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