Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has accused the New York State Education Department (NYSED) of misusing federal COVID-19 funds to push Critical Race Theory in elementary and secondary schools.
“I write with serious concern that the New York State Education Department is using federal taxpayer dollars provided through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to promote Critical Race Theory under the guise of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education (CRSE),” Stefanik wrote in a letter (pdf) to New York’s Education Commissioner Betty Rosa on May 6.
Stefanik voiced her concerns regarding NYSED’s implementation of a “transformative SEL” framework, or SEL and CRSE combined, in its fall 2021 return-to-school plan as one of three “priority areas of focus.”
“To effectuate this priority, NYSED encourages school districts to ‘leverage transformative SEL to support the work of anti-racism and anti-bias’ and provide staff development on topics of ‘privilege’ and ‘implicit bias,’” the congresswoman noted in the letter.
In response to Stefanik’s statement, the NYSED denied that COVID-19 relief funds were used to implement Critical Race Theory in New York State schools.
“None of the policies or initiatives advanced by NYSED or the Board of Regents are related to Critical Race Theory,” an NYSED spokesperson told The Epoch Times in a statement.
Yet according to page 13 of the NYSED plan, implementing the program would involve getting “young people and adults” to “learn to critically examine root causes of inequity.”
The NYSED plan also cited an article written by the University of Michigan’s Robert J. Jagers and others, which first defined the “transformative SEL” framework and listed the premises underlying the framework.
One of these is that “racialized oppression was foundational to the establishment of the United States and persists as a vexing, unresolved cluster of problems for sizeable portions of the population,” according to the article.
Under this backdrop, transformative SEL is motivated by “distributive social justice” where power, knowledge, and material resources would be “allocated equitably.”
“Pursuing this justice implies resistance to oppressive circumstances or relations,” the article suggests, adding that, as inventors of the transformative SEL framework, they “seek insights in which power-sharing opportunities might occur.”
“To be clear, this formulation of anti-racism is not about upholding the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, but instead advocates for the discriminatory treatment of Americans on the basis of race,” Stefanik said in her letter.
“Shrouding this racist and divisive ideology of Critical Race Theory with vague and seemingly innocuous terminology does not diminish the harm it poses to students,” she added.
The $122-billion ESSER federal grant, intended to provide return-to-school support to Pre-K–9 students, is a part of the $1.9 trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief fund the Biden administration issued via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. New York State’s ESSER plan received $8.9 billion as part of the grant.
Stefanik, a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, requests in the letter that Commissioner Rosa release complete accounting records on how the NYSED is spending the federal emergency relief funding, “including any contracts with entities to promote or support the adoption of SEL or related activities in New York schools.”
Stefanik’s letter comes after she said in April that she and her team will “conduct vigorous oversight” of what she called an “egregious misuse of taxpayer funds.”
“It is absolutely inappropriate and unacceptable that New York is using COVID funds to force the radical and racist Critical Race Theory agenda on our children. New York parents are rightfully outraged, and I will continue to stand up for students and parents against this dangerous, Far-Left agenda,” Stefanik said in an April 29 press release.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Stefanik’s office for comment.