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Despite the heat, summer is waning and kids are gathering their pencils and binders to prepare to return to school. Most Alabama kids will be headed off to school in the next two weeks. While many parents are thankful that things have (mostly) normalized again after the COVID mitigation tumult of the past two years, many questions remain about what else has been normalized in our schools. 

As the fights to get kids back in school and get masks off of innocent and not deadly children were waging, parents looked to their state and local school boards for relief. Most didn’t find what they desired, but they did find that their state and local school boards were openly hostile to parental input and that the hostility wasn’t relegated to COVID mitigation strategies.

As soccer moms at a microphone were deemed a possible terrorist threat by the U.S. Attorney General, public school parents across the nation realized that their representatives weren’t representing them or their children at all. In Alabama, and across the nation, parents have shifted tactics and are now fighting back by running for office themselves.  

In Huntsville, several challengers are running for school board on a platform of common sense solutions, building bridges between parents and administrators, and ending political indoctrination in schools. Despite resolutions and assertions of the Governor and members of the State Board of Education to the contrary, critical race theory continues to be advocated for and taught by teachers in many Alabama systems.

Codes of conduct and mental health counselors are being used as tools for indoctrination; anti-bullying campaigns and SEL (social emotional learning) programming in schools have devolved into pronoun- and furry-affirming weapons of leftist propaganda. Parents have had enough and they are running for office to be the representatives they now know they didn’t have before.

In Mountain Brook, three challengers are running for city council (that entity appoints school board members). Among other things, the challengers are advocating that their system be free from political ideology and any undue influence from political groups of any persuasion. They are seeking a renewed focus on academic fundamentals and an adherence to higher standards with fewer outside distractions. Concerned about what they see as a lack of concern for parental opinion from their elected officials, they are now running to have a seat at the table themselves.  

In Shelby County, two challengers won their Republican primary in landslide victories by simply running as parents who wanted to partner with other parents, teachers, administrators, and members of the community to make their schools the best they could be. Before the primary, there were no parents with kids in the system on that school board at all. Now, parents with children in the classrooms will have a voice as decisions are made about what happens in those classrooms rather than having to fight for two minutes at a microphone.

Civics Secures Democracy Act

Parents across Alabama are making a difference and putting their money where their mouths are.  However, saying “all politics is local” is a truism that is being challenged by the federal behemoth that is the U.S. Department of Education. You might not have heard of it, but the Civics Secures Democracy Act is marching through Congress. Its stated purpose is to provide funding for states and school districts to build foundational civic knowledge, to ensure that schools focus on civic education fundamentals, and give students experience robust civic learning opportunities. Sounds good, right?  

Advocates, including former Alabama Senator Doug Jones (thanks again to the “Republicans” who made that whole situation happen), state that the bill forbids national history/civics curriculum. I’ve heard that one before. Two words: Common Core. Federal grants invite states to “voluntarily” adopt leftist curricula that Biden’s Secretary of Education will approve of as they unilaterally decide which states win the cash.

Note: that exact same (false) disclaimer was used in the Obama Race to the Top grants to entice states to adopt Common Core. Toothless provisions like this are regularly inserted into bills meant to expand federal control; it’s a political sleight of hand with the aim of neutralizing political opposition, while doing nothing practical to impede the power of the purse strings. It’s the old carrot and stick routine.

Proponents say the Act will provide $600 million in free federal money through a completely optional grant program.  I’ve heard that one before as well. There is no free lunch — especially not in the Biden era in which educrats are literally holding poor kid’s lunches hostage to further radical political and sexual indoctrination of public school students.

The stated goal of the Act is to improve civics education for underserved students but advocates assert that the only way to eliminate achievement gaps is to revolutionize civics education. We’re not talking about making sure kids understand how a bill becomes a law; this isn’t “School House Rock." Progressive educators in Biden’s administration assert that only anti-racist infused critical race theory and action civics (engaging in political protests for credit) will appeal to and improve minority student education. 

Make no mistake, this Act is an attempt at the federal imposition of critical theory and action civics. It’s federal cash for woke teacher development; it’s federal cash to finish the transformation of higher education teacher training into service centers for equity; it’s federal cash for the forced diversification of the teaching community — not of diversity of their academic content, mind you, but only of their melanin content.

Jones and other advocates claim that “the Civics Secures Democracy Act would provide future generations with the tools they need to engage with and care for a constitutional democracy that we must bring back into good health.” Interesting. I’m pretty sure we have a constitutional republic. I guess that was an oversight in their civics messaging.  

Speaking of gaslighting (ahem, messaging), the best part of all of this totally innocuous free money and top-down civics programming from the Feds is the requirement that all grant recipient states participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress in civics and U.S. history. 

Translation: to get the cash, you have to teach and test students on their radical version of history. Biden and his Fed Ed minions have repeatedly asserted that their approved version of U.S. history is based upon critical theory (gender and race) and action civics. Of course, advocates (falsely) claim that the grants aren’t tied to student performance but that mandatory NAEP testing and reporting would simply be “to better understand civic progress by state." That doesn’t sound simple to me. It sounds Orwellian. 

The Civics Secures Democracy Act is clearly a leftist attempt at a civics coup; it must be stopped. The top-down approach to education in both our nation and state deserves the failing grades that we continue to receive. A re-assertion of local and parental control over education with a healthy infusion of basic academics and common sense are what will truly revolutionize our public education system.  

Stephanie Holden Smith is an experienced policy analyst, political commentator, and public speaker. Smith has worked and volunteered in Governmental Affairs in Alabama since 1997, including lobbying for a Fortune 500 company and serving as Deputy Director of Finance for the State of Alabama. She is currently the principal of Thatcher Coalition LLC. To contact Stephanie, please go to http://thatchercoalition.comThe views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information Commentary@1819News.com.

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