Lawmakers Call For Investigation, Criticize Federally Funded CRT Program

Casey Harper, The Center Square

Republican lawmakers blasted a federally funded education program that trains researchers and teachers in critical race theory after The Center Square’s investigation broke news of the program. A Florida U.S. Representative is now calling for an investigation into the program. A congressman in Florida is asking for an investigation to determine if the program has violated state law.

Recently discovered Department of Education grant records show that $1,020.800 was awarded in a 2017 grant, and $1,498,620 in a grant in 2021 to a Florida program called Partners United for research Pathways Oriented for Social Justice in Education (PURPOSE).

The taxpayer-funded program – led by Florida State University, which has partnered with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University – offers participants one-year fellowships. The fellowships provide training on a variety of topics, including critical race theory.

“In the spring and summer semesters, fellows will participate in proseminars that focus on social justice topics including culturally relevant pedagogy and research design, tools for analyzing oppression, critical race theory, multicultural leadership, and tools for social change and action, which are led both by PURPOSE mentors and guest speakers from both institutions,” the program’s website reads.

RELATED: Taxpayer-Funded Federal Program Trains Teachers In Critical Race Theory

The controversial critical race theory is now in hot water. The theory states, among others, that America is a racist nation from its inception until now. This makes it likely that racism is the dominant feature of American society.

Florida Republican congressman calls for investigation into this program.

“No taxpayer funds should be used to indoctrinate our children by pushing Critical Race Theory,” U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., said. “This biased framework espouses radical, divisive views that have been soundly rejected by Florida lawmakers, educators, and parents. We simply don’t have the space for such a woke platform within our schools. Its use in Florida’s public education system is also a violation of state law. I call upon the Department of Education to investigate this misuse of funds.”

Bilirakis’ office referred to the Florida’s state Board of Education’s decision in June to ban critical race theory from public school classrooms.

PURPOSE fellows focus on receiving training, not teaching students, though they do work with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, which host “six-week summer camps throughout the nation that focus on cultivating scholars’ reading practice and social action through culturally-relevant reading curricula.”

Any investigation likely would center around whether any of PURPOSE’s federally funded involvement with younger students crosses Florida’s newly created rules banning critical race theory. PURPOSE’s 2021 grant continues into 2026.

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

Florida State University indicated that they are investigating this matter.

“We are not aware of any violations of state law,” said Amy Farnum-Patronis, a spokesperson for FSU. “The university will review the federally funded program in question to ensure it is complying with all state laws and regulations.”

Florida A&M University declined to comment.

Alysia Roehrig, a professor of educational psychology at FSU who is listed as the “principal investigator” for the 2017 grant, acknowledged critical race theory is taught as part of the federally funded program but defended it.

Roehrig explained that the program trains education researchers only, and not teachers. Some do, however, go on to become teachers.

“We talk about CRT as one of many frameworks that can be used in conducting research with minoritized populations to address social justice issues in education,” Roehrig said. “It is important to spend federal research money on understanding social justice issues because those from racially minoritized populations (who also pay taxes) are underrepresented in the education sciences.

“CRT has been taught in universities for a while (typically at the [graduate]Not [undergraduate]It has been used at the K-12 level (at least, I believe). Teaching young children directly about the theory does not seem developmentally appropriate to me, but the theory can inform their teachers about structural racism and hopefully reduce deficit thinking about their students.”

Jeannine Turner was the principal investigator at FSU and did not return a request to comment.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ office condemned the PURPOSE program. Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, said these kinds of projects teach young people “to hate their peers.”

“These are two examples of how higher education has been coopted into devaluing the very reasons why students are on campus – projects that are teaching young people to hate their peers, while simultaneously distracting students from obtaining a high quality education that prepares them for opportunity and success in professional life,” Pushaw said.

“As you may know, Governor DeSantis announced last year that CRT and CRT-inspired ideology would be prohibited in Florida’s K-12 public schools. State Board of Education made rules to protect K-12 students from the toxic ideology of racism essentialism. So, Florida’s existing rule prohibiting CRT applies to K-12 education, but not to universities at this time.”

Pushaw said the governor’s office is planning to get new laws passed that explicitly could ban this kind of program.

RELATED: Teaching Unbiased American History

“However, the legislature is now considering reforms proposed by the governor to protect university students and employees from discrimination, including racial discrimination in CRT-inspired content, potentially like the examples you have provided,” Pushaw said.

“As for the timeline, any legislation passed this session and signed by the governor before the fiscal year ends on June 30 would be state law, effective July 1, 2022. So if all goes according to plan, we anticipate having these protections for university students in place before the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester, so they cannot be forced to take classes with discriminatory/racist content.”

Numerous pieces of legislation that were proposed have dealt with critical race theory funding at federal levels, but they have yet to become law. U.S. senator Ted Cruz from Texas introduced a bill that would ban federal funding. Similar legislation was introduced to the House.

“I’m absolutely opposed to allowing any taxpayer funding for teaching Critical Race Theory in schools in any state, at any level of education,” U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla, said in response to the newly uncovered program. “I’ve cosponsored a bill which would prohibit federal funding from going to CRT. When the Republicans take back the majority in November, we will put an end to schools teaching these racist theories that are exclusively based on the color of skin to our next generation.”

Center Square tried to reach out to many Florida Democrats, but was not able receive any response.

“Critical Race Theory has no place in America, especially not in the free state of Florida,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said. “All federal funding for any CRT-related programs or initiatives should be defunded and disbanded immediately.”

The Center Square permission granted this syndicated version.