RALEIGH — At its April 19 meeting, the Wake County Board of Education unanimously approved an application to accept grant funds from an outside organization that openly promotes the use of Critical Race Theory in K-12 education.
The board approved allowing the non-profit organization Working to Extend Antiracist Education (WeAre) to give around $1,500 total in an educator grant to six Millbrook Magnet High School teachers for the purpose of taking a course online via UNC Charlotte (UNCC).
WeAre also offers student grants for children in grades six through 11. The grants for grade 6-8 are for students “seeking to apply anti-racism efforts in their classrooms and school communities,” and the grade 9-11 grants can be “used for an initiative, student group or policy that will create an environment of anti-racism.” The applications ask students questions that include identifying their race and preferred pronouns.
The day before the vote, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) took to Twitter to voice his objection to the proposal.
“This is wholly unacceptable,” Moore tweeted. ”No North Carolina school should be teaching anti-American Critical Race Theory in our classrooms, much less competing for a grant from an organization focused on promoting CRT.”
WeAre’s Twitter account responded, “If we had the funds, we would give larger grants to educators to support the important work they are leading in the classrooms. Public school dollars have been decreasing and it’s a shame when they seek outside funding, political leaders don’t want them to have that either.”
Moore tweeted on the day WCPSS was to vote that “We do not need CRT in North Carolina school systems. That’s why the North Carolina House passed House Bill 324, and why the @nchousegop will never stop fighting for parental rights.”
According to WCPSS Communications Director Lisa Luten, the specific UNC Charlotte course is “CPP107 – Culturally Sustaining Teaching Certificate.”
UNC Charlotte’s description of CPP107 says “Culturally sustaining teaching practices are essential if teachers want to be relevant in today’s classroom. Culturally relevant teaching (CRT) is a practice grounded in a level of cultural competence that allows teachers to effectively educate through a skill-based knowledge that supports teaching in a multicultural setting.”
CPP107’s description also cites “Dr. Gloria Landson-Bilings” [SIC] as “the pioneer of culturally relevant teaching.”
Ladson-Billings’ most recent work focuses heavily on how Critical Race Theory can be applied in elementary and early childhood education. Her work is incorporated into teacher professional development training in WCPSS conducted by its Office of Equity Affairs (OEA). The OEA inserts Ladson-Billings work into the training through “culturally responsive pedagogy.”
The $1,500 grant from WeAre raised questions about the organization, who runs it and it’s Critical Race Theory focus. Per its website, WeAre is a “ 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides anti-racism training for children, families, and educators.”
“We use a three-pronged approach to dismantle systemic racism in education by offering summer camps for children in rising 1st-5th grade, professional development for educators, and workshops for parents & families,” WeAre’s website says.
Executive Director Ronda Taylor Bullock leads WeAre and her bio says she has a Ph.D from UNC Chapel Hill in the Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement Program. The bio also lists her research interests in “critical race theory, whiteness studies, white children’s racial identity construction, and anti-racism.”
Bullock previously taught English close to ten years at Hillside High School in Durham where she lives with her husband, Kelvin, who is the Executive Director for Equity Affairs for Durham Public Schools.
In late December 2021, WeAre hosted a “CRT Town hall” attended by numerous elected officials, mainly from Durham. WeAre staff member Brittany Del Rosario said in her opening remarks they wanted to bring “our state and local leaders together to talk about the attacks against CRT and education.”
When introduced, Bullock described herself as a “Critical Race scholar” before launching into a presentation that began by claiming parents and legislators objecting to Critical Race Theory don’t know what it is and called it a “boogeyman.”
“There is a lot of gaslighting, a lot of fearmongering around CRT and the pushback against it in schools and communities,” Bullock said. “I want to say that many people doesn’t [SIC] even know what it is and even the politicians who are using it, they don’t actually know what it is either.”
Bullock later offered an abbreviated overview of Critical Race Theory, leaving out many of its core components.
Following the town hall event, Bullock was featured in a “post commentary” video which, in part, promoted WeAre’s annual “Let’s Talk Racism” conference that was slated for March of 2022. The conference’s theme was “Seeing Critical Race Theory in our schools from theory to praxis.”
“While most teachers by and large are not explicitly teaching a Critical Race Theory in their schools; they are not explicitly teaching the theory,” Bullock said in her post commentary video. “However, we do have educators who are embodying Critical Race Theory ideas and tenets in their classroom, in their curriculum, and what we want to say about that is this is a good thing.”
More recently, WeAre launched a hashtag campaign called #somepeopleneedtobefired, aimed at holding the education profession “to a higher standard” and states “We can no longer hold space for educators who are unapologetically bigoted and biased.”