State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright denied that her department’s proposed change on social studies standards uses critical race theory.
Wright made her remarks at the Wednesday meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
“I can tell you that what went out for APA (Administrative Procedures Act) had nothing to do with critical race theory,” Wright said. “How it got turned into critical race theory, I can’t even begin to answer that. The requests from edits came from teachers. We are not teaching critical race theory in our social studies standards. Period. The end.”
Wright also said that curriculum isn’t dictated by the MDE but is adopted at the local level.
MDE filed a review of the state’s social studies curriculum with the Secretary of State’s Office on December 16 and will hold a hearing on January 28 to hear from constituents about the controversial change. Critical race theory teaches that race is a social construct and that racism is embedded in the nation’s legal systems and policies.
One of the primary sources for the social studies program is the National Council for the Social Studies, an advocacy group that supports the teaching of critical race theory and other left-leaning views of history and social studies topics.
“The fact there is any interest or connection with critical race theory in these standards is absolutely crazy considering what is going on in this country,” said State Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula. “The bottom line is there should be no critical race theory.”
Wright also discussed the necessity for the six technology projects worth $89 million that were approved under an emergency declaration that was issued by the state Board of Education and the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services (ITS) Board and funded with federal COVID-19 relief funds. She said the licensure phone bank in particular was important to the MDE's mission.
These federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds were also provided to individual school districts statewide.
A December 20 report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) said the emergency declaration wasn’t required to protect lives or property (as the MDE asserted in its requests to the SBE and the ITS board).
The projects that need to be approved by February 2022 (to meet federal deadlines) include $9.3 million for the educator career continuum system, $14 million for a new school safety system, $14.6 million for the replacement of the Mississippi Student Information System and $49.5 million in learning aids for students.
MDE is requesting a total of $2.9 billion in fiscal 2023, an increase of 11.26 percent. Most of that ($2.6 billion is for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), the funding formula that has only been fully funded once by lawmakers and increases every year despite declining enrollment. This year’s public school enrollment is 442,000, down 7.59 percent from 2018 when it was 478,321.
MDE is requesting $175 million for administration in fiscal 2023, a decrease of $36 million compared to the previous year.