Federal Taxpayers Pay Millions To Fund Critical Race Theory Program That Trains Students To Promote CRT

Casey Harper, The Center Square

Federal grant records indicate that millions of taxpayer-funded dollars have been awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to help fund critical race theory training in order for educators at various colleges around the country.

The Obama administration gave the first five-year extension to the federal government in 2016. Grant of $1,116,895 to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) for “training” college students in critical race theory. 

The program is called, “The Research Institute for Scholars of Equity,” or RISE. RISE promises to produce “a cadre of scholars who value and advance equity.” As part of the program, these students receive a $5,000 stipend, money for food and housing, and a travel allowance. RISE students, according to grant documents and promotional material, are taught to apply critical race theory to evaluate teacher quality.

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NCCU collaborated with University of North Carolina Wilmington to provide fellowships of one-year duration for approximately 60 students.

While some of the students will likely go on to be teachers, the program also puts an emphasis on training students with “research careers that will inform policy and practice in education” on a broader scale, helping propel critical race theory conversations nationwide. 

“This is an example of federal funding for CRT at the post secondary level that also has an impact on K-12 schools based on the goals and activities of the fellowship,” said Jonathan Butcher, an education expert at the Heritage Foundation. “This directly exposes the claims that CRT is not used in K-12 schools as false.”

Butcher went on to add that “the grant clearly has goals for teacher training that include instruction in CRT.”

It is part of an international collaboration between higher education institutions. There have been many schools involved in this program over the years: Penn State University, University of North Carolina Wilmington and Duke University.

Though RISE remained based out of NCUU, the program allowed certain “students and faculty mentors from collaborating institutions” to receive training in critical race theory, according to the federal grant.

“Given the prevalence of CRT in K-12 curriculum elsewhere in the country, lawmakers and the media should identify examples of this racially discriminatory teaching and reject the application of such racial obsessions in classroom work,” Butcher said.

The principal investigator for the RISE program, NCCU faculty member Wynetta Lee, was approved under the Biden administration for another five-year grant of $1,533,384 in July of this year, putting her over $2.6 million in taxpayer dollars for the program. Pennsylvania State University has partnered Lee for this second grant.

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Lee didn’t respond to any questions regarding RISE or its students and the role that critical race theory played in her program. 

This is the 2021 version. Grant document does not include the term “critical race theory” in the “Research Institute for Scholars of Equity (RISE) 2.0” grant, though in all other respects it appears to be a continuation of the same work. The slight change in the 2021 grant omits mention of the exact phrase “critical race theory” but is almost identical in all other respects.

The 2016 grant was:

“One core feature of the fellowship is the eight-week summer research institute in which fellows will be introduced to critical race theory (as well as mixed-methods research techniques) as a means of studying issues such as teacher quality, education policy, and race and social justice in education,” the 2016 grant reads.

“In addition to coursework, fellows will conduct several short research projects and begin conducting research related to the RISE theme as part of research interest groups (RIGs) under the supervision of their faculty mentors. Fellows will continue to conduct research through their RIGs during the academic year.”

The 2021 grant has the same wording but omits “critical race theory.”

Starting in 2021:

“One core feature of the fellowship is the 8-week summer research institute in which fellows will be introduced to mixed-methods research techniques as a means of studying issues such as teacher quality, education policy, and race and social justice in education,” the grant reads.

Lee declined to answer a question about whether the term was being removed because of recent controversy. 

Despite the latest grant’s omission of the term “critical race theory,” the group’s website makes clear that is still its focus.

North Carolina Central University touts the RISE program on its website, boasting that it is training young leaders in CRT to send them out to mold education policy for the nation, or as the school puts it, “to grant them a seat at the policy table.”

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From NCCU’s website:

“RISE employs Critical Race Theory (CRT) (Bell, 1970; Delgado & Stefanic; 2001), a conceptual, analytical and interpretative framework compatible with developing cultural competence among interdisciplinary teams of future researchers. CRT provides a framework for understanding the larger context in which American schools operate and how it impacts students’, parents’ and teacher experiences. CRT offers methodological tools that can disrupt discourses that impact communities of color: the counter-narrative (Milner & Howard, 2013) and cultural wealth analysis (Yosso, 2005). RISE mobilizes its recruitment efforts to include Underrepresented Minorities (URMs) to swell the number of URMs who are well-trained individuals such that they can pursue careers that grant them a place at the table in the policy arena.”

The two federal grants operate under the U.S. Department of Education’s Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training program, which is tasked with helping “talented education researchers who bring fresh ideas, approaches, and perspectives to addressing the issues and challenges faced by the nation’s diverse students and schools.”

A flyer on the University of New Mexico’s website advertises the summer of 2020 program, calling it a “Paid Virtual RISE Summer Research Experience in Critical Race Theory & Education for Undergraduate Students.”

Penn State touted its partnership on the 2021, 2.0 version of the RISE program which includes teaching on “critical theoretical frameworks.” The program is “designed to improve the schooling experiences and academic attainment of pre-kindergarten through university-level African American and Latino/a students.”

This grant is being made amid national discussions about the merits and role of critical race theory in K-12 education. A proposal to ban federal funding of critical race theory has taken center stage in Congress, where senators duked it out over an amendment that would do just that as part of Biden’s reconciliation spending.

It remains to be seen if the bill will pass with the CRT controversial measure intact.

This article was Syndicated by permission of The Center Square.