One of the wealthiest school systems in the U.S. unveiled plans to reallocate COVID-19 relief money to promote “equity” programs and a “welcoming” and “culturally responsive” student learning environment, according to the district’s website.
Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) school board voted to approve the plan on Aug. 26, which said it would use $78.8 million, originally allocated for COVID-19 relief, to support efforts such as “equity professional development for school teams.”
FCPS was awarded $188.6 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan, which focused on “delivering direct relief to the American people, rescuing the American economy, and starting to beat the virus.”
The district’s plan says funding for schools will be allocated based on “size, poverty, English learners, special education, and achievement” to “directly support student social emotional needs.”
The district agreed to pay Panorama Education $1,845,660 over five years for a screening survey, but the school system’s website states that parents can opt their children out of it, according to an FCPS document. The FCPS website recites that questions to be asked of students each semester from “grade 3-12” may include “How confident are you that students at your school can have honest conversations with each other about race?” and “How often do you think about what someone of a different race, ethnicity, or culture experiences?”
Mark Zuckerberg’s $1 billion Startup:Education fund is just one among several prominent supporters of PDE, according to Boston Business Journal.
“It’s outrageous Fairfax County Public Schools is collaborating with a for-profit company funded by Mark Zuckerberg,” Parents Defending Education (PDE) Vice President of Strategy and Investigations Asra Nomani told Fox News. “His involvement today with surveys examining students’ mental health is beyond the pale. Schools must stop trying to manipulate students and focus instead on educating students.”
PDE is a non-profit “fighting indoctrination in the classroom,” and the group criticized the social and emotional learning initiatives that FCPS is using $23.3 million of the ESSER funds for, Fox News reported.
“Social and emotional learning” has been a focus of the Virginia Department of Education in the past, and critics see that focus a pipeline to left-wing ideology, Fox News reported.
“If you are talking about social-emotional learning, but not equity, you are not talking about SEL,” said Dr. Lorenzo Moore, according to Panorama Education.
“SEL and equity are two sides of the same coin. In fact, they’re both on both sides of the same coin,” Moore said. “When we set goals to raise the racial consciousness of our entire district, it means that we have to change the mindsets of people.”
In May, FCPS faced pushback for its “Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Curriculum Policy Survey,” which was supposed to be a way for parents and community members to “build a vision of educational equity for every child by name and by need.” In July, parents in the district also petitioned to recall members of the school board for failing to do their duty and preventing in-person schooling during the pandemic.
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