Top House Republicans launched an investigation Wednesday into whether the Department of Education allowed schools to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to try and push critical race theory (CRT) on kids.
The probe is looking to determine if states — including New York, California and Illinois — put the pandemic federal funds towards “radical curricula to indoctrinate America’s students.”
“Republicans are investigating the use of COVID-19 relief dollars appropriated for virus mitigation and the safe reopening of schools,” the GOP lawmakers said in a letter sent to Education Department Secretary Miguel Cardona.
“Based on recent reports, the Department of Education is allowing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and related COVID relief funds to pay for racially biased and other progressive leftist programs.”
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) and and Education and Labor Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) are leading the investigation.
The lawmakers said the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund was created to help schools safely reopen amid the pandemic and address learning loss caused by COVID lockdowns.
But they claim the funds are instead “being used to indoctrinate children in core tenets of leftist ideology.”
Under the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, $122 billion was set aside last year for the ESSER fund. It was in addition to $67.5 billion the Trump administration put toward the fund in 2020 under two separate relief packages.
The probe comes off the back of research compiled by conservative PAC One Nation that showed New York and at least 12 other states had planned to use the funds to implement programs, such as “anti-racism” training, which critics argued was akin to implementing CRT in schools.
“Instead of using ESSER funds to address these dramatic learning losses, some states are spending taxpayer dollars to push progressive left causes,” the GOP lawmakers said Wednesday.
“New York used part of the $9 billion it received to provide staff development on ‘culturally responsive sustaining instruction’ and ‘privilege’ and to recognize ‘equity warriors.’
“At least 10 other state plans included proposals to use the ESSER funds to implement racially biased curriculum and programs based on Critical Race Theory.”
New York State’s funding application, which was approved by the US Education Department in August, detailed plans to offer staff training to address “critical topics” including “implicit bias and structural racism” and “facilitating difficult conversations about race.”
State DOE officials denied at the time that any funding went toward implementing CRT, saying the notion was “patently false.”
The department said funds went towards bringing children back safely for in-person learning and addressing the disproportionate impact COVID had on economically disadvantaged students, racial and ethnic minorities, and others.
California’s DOE was awarded $15.1 billion in federal relief funding — $1.5 billion of which the state planned to put towards staff training in “specified high-need topics,” such “restorative practices and implicit bias training.”
Illinois was awarded $5.1 billion of the pandemic relief fund that would, in part, be used to provide training for school districts is areas such as “anti-racism” and “equity.”
New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, Washington, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia were among the other states that planned to implement elements of CRT in schools, according to the One Nation research.