Our Local School Boards Need Parental Supervision

Our Local School Boards Need Parental Supervision
Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times via AP
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Follow the money, and the infiltration of critical race theory into the country’s tenth-largest school district tracks back to Purchase Order No. 8500457546.

In that transaction, dated Feb. 8, 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools agreed to pay the Leadership Academy, an “equity” consulting firm based in Long Island City, N.Y., $49,600 in an “informal competitive process,” according to documents received by Parents Defending Education, a new national advocacy group, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The Fairfax County school district hired the outside group for its new “Anti-Bias Community Engagement Policy,” including the cost of doing “survey and policy work.”

Recently, Fairfax County parents – including both of us – got a look at the survey, which is available for anyone to take online. It asks respondents biased, unscientific leading questions about upending a policy that requires teacher impartiality in discussing “controversial issues” and creating a new “Anti-Racist, Anti-Bias Curriculum.” That supposedly anti-biased curriculum consists, in reality, of the divisive and racist ideas of critical race theory, which judges people based on the color of their skin.

“I was sick to my stomach reading the questions,” wrote one of the many concerned parents who filed an incident report with us at Parents Defending Education. We have launched a portal so that local parents and community members can send comments to the superintendent, school board, and school district officials, demanding that the district ditch this survey and put a halt to the work of indoctrination.

Away from public view, the plan has been months in the making. On January 27, days before signing the purchase order, school board member Karl Frisch led a virtual board “work session” on “Anti-Bias and Anti-Racism Education,” and school district officials danced around the details of what it would cost to hire an outside consultant. The county’s new chief equity officer, Lisa Williams, spoke about the virtue of hiring an “external partner.” She called it a “win-win situation.”

This opaque paper trail detailing spending for sweeping changes, including a possible “Letter of Reckoning with Racism,” underscores how much transparency depends on parental scrutiny. When one of us asked tough questions at a board meeting last week, the video went viral. Then, this week, the matter of the survey led both of us – and other parents – to speak at the school board’s public hearing on the budget to demand explanations about the waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.

Attempting to defend itself, the school district said that the work “falls under an Exception to Competitive Procurement as allowed by the Fairfax County Purchasing Resolution which states ‘Procurement for single or term contracts for goods and services not expected to exceed $200,000 as identified by the Purchasing Agent.’” Confusingly, it added, “The department is required to solicit at least four (4) written competitive proposals by sending the solicitation to known sources. This is a one-time engagement, and nothing has been paid to date.”

The purchase order said the agreement was in response to a January 29 proposal by the Leadership Academy, two days after the “work session,” for the “revision of the controversial issues policy and the development of a new policy commissioning anti-bias and anti-racism education.” Fairfax County Public Schools has not released the request for proposal or the contract. We have asked for these documents.

In another act lacking transparency, the school district quietly inked a multiyear “acceptance agreement” on March 11 with the Leadership Academy, just weeks after purchasing its “survey and policy work” and before the survey went out to parents. The deal set up the New York consultants with a contract for four years and five months of “leadership development training” – with three additional option years – and for work that adds up to about $700,000 in services if the school district buys the most basic options.

Yet the school district preposterously claims that the “estimated value of the contract” is a mere $80,000 – even though a proposed single line item for “Customized, Deeper Touch Professional Learning” runs to a cost of at least $240,000.

The Fairfax County school district is often a bellwether of what is occurring in communities nationwide. Parents across the country should be vigilant. They should engage their school boards and investigate what their tax dollars are funding and whether it has anything to do with the priorities of their communities. A new poll reveals that voters overwhelmingly reject indoctrination in classrooms, with 70 percent of respondents disapproving of teaching students that “their race is the most important thing about them.” Clearly, our local school boards need parental supervision.

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