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- Loudoun County Public Schools spent $34,167 in 2020 for seminars to familiarize senior officials with critical race theory and equity training. A school spokesman says no additional funds have been spent on CRT.
- The school system has been focused on improving racial equity policies since 2019 reports found the county’s Black and Hispanic students were ecountering racism.
- Loudoun Superintendent Scott Ziegler has repeatedly said critical race theory is not being taught in county classrooms.
EDITOR'S NOTE, Jan. 27, 6:15 p.m.: We recently published a fact-check on this same claim by Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears. Her office did not reply to three requests for comment. After the article ran, Earle-Sears’ office sent us the sources behind her statement. We have updated the fact-check with her information and with more information from Loudoun County Public Schools. But it does not change our ruling that Earle-Sears’ statement is Mostly False.
Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears recently told Fox News that critical race theory "is definitely being taught in some form or fashion," in Virginia’s public schools.
"We know last year the Loudoun County School Board spent about $300,000 — that’s real money, that’s going-to-jail money — to bring CRT in some form or fashion to the school system," Earle-Sears, a Republican, said in a Jan. 17 interview.
Critical race theory — a 45-year-old academic construct about systemic bias and privilege — has become a political flashpoint across the nation. It holds that racism is part of a broader pattern in America: It is woven into laws, and it shows up in who gets a job interview, the sort of home loans people are offered, how they are treated by police and other facets of daily life large and small.
There is a movement by some educators to incorporate critical race theory into instruction, particularly in U.S. history which they say has been taught from a white vantage point. Conservatives in Virginia and across the nation have strongly opposed teaching the theory, saying because the approach focuses on race, it is fundamentally racist.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, said in his campaign last fall that the theory has infiltrated Virginia schools and vowed to end its spread. Shortly after his inauguration on Jan. 15, Youngkin signed an executive order banning "the use" of critical race theory. He has set up a hotline for parents to report the teaching of the theory and other "divisive practices" in schools.
Critics say there is no evidence the theory is being widely taught in Virginia and Youngkin and his supporters have struggled to provide proof.
We asked Earle-Sears’ office for the source of her claim about Loudoun’s $300,000 investment in critical race theory and were sent two news articles:
A Sept. 28, 2020, story in The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, headlined, "Loudoun County Schools Spend Hundreds of Thousands on Critical Race Theory;"
A Nov. 9, 2021, column by Mark Thiessen, a conservative columnist for The Washington Post, saying Loudoun "paid $314,000 for critical race theory coaching for its teachers…".
Both articles refer to money Loudoun paid The Equity Collaborative, a California-based consulting group, to interview students, parents and teachers and make recommendations on how the racial atmosphere and policies in schools could be improved.
The Collaborative was paid $422,500 between September 2018 and June 2020, according to county records. No payments were made to the consultant last year, as Earle-Sears claimed.
There’s much debate over the contention of Earle-Sears and others that the money was spent "to bring CRT in some form or fashion to the school system."
Wayde Byard, spokesman for Loudoun schools, told us the county paid $34,167 in June 2020 for seminars on critical race theory. He said the purpose was to familiarize senior officials with the theory and that no additional money was spent on CRT.
Loudoun Superintendent Scott Ziegler says the theory is not being taught to students. He says critics are conflating the theory with Loudoun’s efforts to bring equity to the way students are treated in school, where most of the money was spent.
The Collaborative charged the county $242,000 to interview students, parents and teachers about the racial climate in schools and what could make them more welcoming to minorities. The consultants were paid for conducting equity leadership seminars designed to help teachers relate to minorities, as well as travel.
Loudoun’s school system has seen huge growth and demographic change in recent decades. It is no longer majority White. The system began its equity work amid reports that found Black students were being inordinately suspended and expelled.
The Collaborative released a 28-page report in June 2019 that did not mention critical race theory. It concluded that Loudoun teachers and principals had a "low level of racial consciousness," discipline of Black students was disproportionately severe and that many minority students encountered racial slurs and violent actions from other students.
Based on the findings, Loudoun drew up a 22-page "Plan to Combat Systemic Racism." It called for teacher training in racial literacy and competence, a ban on students wearing Confederate flag items and the development of alternative punishments to suspension and expulsion, which are shown to severely harm student outcomes.
While Loudoun draws a distinction between critical race theory and its equity program, critics of the school system do not. "They’re using semantics, the other side is, when it comes to CRT and it’s definitely being taught in some form or another," Earle-Sears told Fox News.
Earle-Sears said, "We know last year the Loudoun County School Board spent about $300,000 — that’s real money, that’s going-to-jail money — to bring CRT in some form or fashion to the school system."
Earle-Sears has a little ground beneath her. In 2020, the school system paid a consultant $34,167 to conduct seminars for senior officials on critical race theory and equity training.
But her statement is otherwise tenuous. The seminars were a slice of $422,500 Loudoun spent to improve racial equity in its school amid reports that disproportionate numbers of Black students were being suspended or expelled. The money was spent from September 2018 to June 2020 — not last year as Earle-Sears says.
The consultants helped Loudoun develop policies aimed at making schools more welcoming and fair to minorities. The work focused on treating students fairly, not what they should learn in classrooms. Earle-Sears’ statement confuses the matter and we rate it Mostly False.
Fox News, "Winsome Sears rips critical race theory: 'Our children are not learning' in school,’" Jan. 17, 2022
PolitiFact, "What is critical race theory, and why are conservatives blocking it?" May 24, 2021
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Executive Order No. 1, Jan. 15, 2022
PolitiFact Virginia, "Youngkin offers little proof critical race theory is in 'all' Virginia schools," Aug. 10, 2021
The Equity Collaborative, Invoice to Loudoun County Public Schools, June 9, 2020
The Washington Post, "Top Loudoun school officials defend equity work against charges of ‘critical race theory,’" June 2, 2021
Interviews with Wayde Byard, public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools, Jan. 19 and 21, 2022
The Harvard Gazette, "How textbooks taught white supremacy," Sept. 4, 2020
ProPublica, Loudoun County Public Schools, October 2018.
WAMU 88.5, "How Loudoun County schools ended up at the center of Virginia's election," Oct. 26, 2021.
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