Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., wants to know how the New York Education Department is using federal coronavirus relief money, expressing concern that it is being used to promote critical race theory in public schools.
In a letter to Education Commissioner Betty Rosa obtained by Fox News and first reported by the New York Post, Stefanik noted that the state’s plan for spending the relief funds included dealing with “anti-racism and anti-bias,” as well as “implicit bias” and “privilege,” and not just the effects of the pandemic on learning and academics.
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“I write with serious concern that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) 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 the letter, sent Friday.
“Shrouding the racist and divisive ideology of Critical Race Theory with vague and seemingly innocuous terminology does not diminish the harm it poses to students,” she said.
The Republican congresswoman said that her state’s “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.” She also criticized the state for devising a plan for the federal funding that included “social emotional support within a culturally responsive sustaining framework,” instead of sticking to getting schools to reopen and addressing children’s academic challenges.
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Stefanik called on the department to provide a list of all social emotional learning activities in state public schools, in addition to “any memos or other materials discussing the decision to use the federal pandemic funds to support Critical Race Theory through the guise of SEL and CRSE.”
Stefanik, a senior member on the House Committee on Education and Labor, promised in April that there would be “vigorous oversight of this egregious misuse of taxpayer funds.”
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A New York Education Department spokesperson countered Stefanik’s suggestions in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“The notion that funds were used to implement Critical Race Theory in New York State schools is patently false and the Congresswoman knows it,” the spokesperson said. “The State Education Department encourages all children to be critical thinkers and discern fact from fiction. While Rep. Stefanik’s letter provides an excellent example of a lesson in falsehoods posing as facts, our children would be better served if she adhered to the truth.”
“Congresswoman Stefanik can easily confirm with [the U.S. Department of Education] that New York is utilizing ARP ESSER funds for their designated purpose, which includes: supporting the safe return to in-person instruction; addressing the impact of lost instructional time; responding to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs; and addressing the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on economically disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care,” the spokesperson added, providing a link to the DOE’s full plan and district reporting requirements.
“The Department is committed to ensuring New York’s schools are places where all students, including those living in the Congresswoman’s district, are welcomed and supported, provided with equitable opportunities to succeed, and valued for the cultures, languages, and life experiences they bring to the classroom,” the spokesperson added. “None of the policies or initiatives advanced by NYSED or the Board of Regents are related to Critical Race Theory.”