There’s no question students face mounting challenges as they head back to classrooms across the country this month. But are COVID-era school closures solely to blame?
The answer is a resounding no.
The lagging test scores and reading delays that have been widely reported over the past few months stem from much more than simply misguided COVID policies.
A new report from the National Opportunity Project reveals that school districts across America – in red and blue states alike – are now considering teachers’ social and political views alongside instructional qualifications during the hiring process.
This means that if the teacher at the head of your kid’s classroom was hired in recent years, there’s a strong chance he or she was chosen not for their credentials — but because they passed an ideological litmus test.
The National Opportunity Project surveyed more than 70 school districts across America over the past year about their hiring protocols.
They also reviewed district hiring documents such as applications, interview questions, and candidate evaluation rubrics.
Here is what NOP found: Applicants in the Denver Public School system for an elementary art teacher position must: “Lead for racial and educational excellence and work to dismantle systems of oppression and inequity in our community…”
In Georgia, City Schools of Decatur require hiring teams to be staffed for racial and gender equity by “ensur[ing] that there is at least one person of color and one woman or gender-fluid individual on the interview panel. Individuals who embody other aspects of diversity should be included as well.”
Since when were these characteristics needed to determine who should be teaching our kids?
Indeed, more than one-third of the school districts that responded to NOP’s request for transparency around their hiring practice revealed protocols that are clearly based on ideological bias.
Many more districts tout public commitments to divisive ideologies or DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)-focused mission statements. We’ve known for a long time that these types of controversial policies are commonplace in higher education; but only recently are they permeating classrooms with students as young as preschool age.
What’s the reason for all this? As the old adage goes, “Personnel is policy.”
The people behind these policies aim to change the culture of public schools by only hiring staff who adhere to their political and ideological viewpoints.
The districts’ DEI statements — or commitments to “culturally responsive-sustaining education” in the case of New York Public Schools — are not merely lip service.
They inform every element of the public school experience, including who gets to stand at the head of the classroom.
It’s no wonder far-left political viewpoints now course through much of America’s public school systems; the application process is designed to weed out anyone who thinks differently or is independent-minded.
The National Opportunity Project found that the same schools giving preference to teachers with certain political and social views are adopting other divisive, and sometimes illegal, policies, as well.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, applicants to the public school district are asked, “What does equity mean to you? How do you plan to keep equity at the center of your classroom?” Responses that show strong agreement with DEI concepts such as “equity journey,” “equity work,” and “understanding that race is a social construct” are rated more highly on a scoring rubric.
However, not everyone in Fairfax County thinks this type of discrimination is acceptable.
The school district is facing a federal lawsuit for adopting race-based admissions to its selective math and science magnet school.
In neighboring Loudoun County, Virginia, applicants for teaching positions are asked: “How would race and diversity impact your classroom?”
In the meantime, the Loudoun County Public Schools have faced multiple lawsuits for racial and viewpoint discrimination and bias against a teacher and students in recent years.
In Evanston, a large suburb outside Chicago, the local high school district has highlighted its commitment to “anti-racism” since at least 2020.
The National Opportunity Project’s investigation found that candidates for teaching positions must “demonstrate a commitment to social justice, equity, excellence and high expectations for all students.”
The district’s equity pledge even spurred the creation of Advanced Placement Calculus classes segregated by race.
When it comes to our kids, they need the best and brightest teachers by their side – not people who pass a political litmus test.
As the gaping holes caused by COVID-era closures confirm, American students are struggling to catch up in the classroom and prepare for life after graduation.
School hiring policies should be focused on putting the most qualified adults in front of students, no matter their race, their personal political beliefs, or their point of view on the news of the day.
Our students demand it — and deserve nothing less.
Patrick Hughes is the founder and president of the National Opportunity Project, a nonprofit government watchdog and education organization.