House Bills Targeting School Curriculum Are a Dishonest Attack on Public Schools

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 15, 2021

Contact: Neil Bhaerman, 412-266-4899, nbhaerman@oft-aft.org

House Bills Targeting School Curriculum Are a Dishonest Attack on Public Schools

Today, the House State and Local Government Committee listened to proponent testimony on HB 322, which would prohibit “Critical Race Theory'' and “action civics” in schools, and on HB 327, which would prohibit “teaching or advocating divisive concepts.” Recent reporting (in VICE News and in the Ohio Capital Journal) has shown that these bills are part of an orchestrated national campaign by professional lobbyists who specialize in “astroturf” campaigns and by organizations that have a long-standing antagonism to public education, like ALEC and the Heritage Foundation.

OFT President Melissa Cropper released the following statement on these bills:

“HB 322 and HB 327 are bills that were written to address a non-existent problem that was ginned up by the same bad actors who have been trying to privatize public education for decades. If these bills were to pass, they have the potential to prohibit or dissuade educators from covering important topics that are essential for students to learn our past, understand our present, and build our future.

These bills are rooted in scare tactics about ‘Critical Race Theory,’ but there are no indications that Critical Race Theory — an academic concept more suited to a higher education curriculum — is being taught in Ohio public schools in any widespread manner. To muddle the issue further, the list of things banned in HB 322, are not representative of Critical Race Theory nor are they things that are even happening in our schools. HB 327, by vaguely prohibiting teaching divisive concepts, will create endless problems and potential litigation as teachers, administrators, and parents all try and figure out what is ‘divisive’ and what isn’t. 

Regardless of the specific text of the bills, the critics who are leading the attacks that the bills are based on have conflated practically any attempt to teach about the impact of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and other injustices in our history as ‘critical race theory.’ Likewise, they also call any attempt to advance equity and diversity in schools as ‘critical race theory.’

Legislators who support these bills are either being duped by these dishonest attacks or are complicit in them. 

As educators, we are committed to ensuring that all of our students — no matter their color, background, or zip code — receive a quality public education rooted in an accurate and comprehensive 21st Century curriculum, and that is why we strongly oppose HB 322 and HB 327.”

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The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) is composed of 54 local unions representing 20,000 members who are active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality education and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education professionals. OFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.