Jan 18, 2022 - News

Atlanta school board members oppose bill banning critical race theory

A stack of books with barbed wire wrapped around them.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

More than a dozen Atlanta school board members are criticizing legislation that would prohibit educators from teaching critical race theory in schools.

House Bill 888, introduced by Republican State Rep. Brad Thomas of Holly Springs, calls for banning curriculum classified as discriminatory based on race.

Why it matters: Critical race theory, a post-secondary academic concept that explores how racism influences American society and how systemic inequities persist today, is not part of Georgia’s public education curriculum.

  • However, the topic has become a flashpoint among some conservatives who say white students are being taught to hate themselves because of their race, and parents should have more control over what their children learn in the classrooms.

What they’re saying: In a letter penned Jan. 13, the 14 school board members say Thomas’ bill is an attack on free speech and is an “effort to cancel public education as we know it.”

  • “As elected officials, we should be working to make life easier for our teachers – instead, HB 888 does the exact opposite,” the letter reads. “In fact, it would financially and publicly punish educators and school districts who use current events to encourage critical thinking around race and equal rights.”

Cobb County Board of Education member Jaha Howard tells Axios that it was also troubling to see Gov. Brian Kemp support legislation that “adds so much red tape and bureaucracy.”

Details: Along with banning critical race theory, House Bill 888 also allows parents to inspect materials used to teach students and gives parents, students or school employees the ability to file complaints alleging a violation of the law.

  • Any school or district found to be in violation of the law could see 20% of its funding withheld by the State Board of Education.
  • That money would be restored once a school or district can prove it’s complying with a corrective action plan implemented by the state Department of Education.

The other side: Thomas said parents are learning that critical race theory, as well as The New York Times 1619 Project, “are being forced on our children by rogue teachers and radical school boards.”

  • “Critical race theory is anti-American,” Thomas said in a news release. “It parades around as a method to identify social injustice as its true intent is to undermine the realization of the American Dream.”

The legislation has been assigned to the House Education Committee.

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