By John Haughey
(The Center Square) – Republicans in the GOP-controlled Missouri General Assembly Monday staged a three-hour hearing before a joint committee designed to prompt Gov. Mike Parson into issuing an executive order banning critical race theory from state K-12 curriculum.
While saying he’s opposed to teaching CRT in schools, Parson quickly decided against the executive order.
“Critical Race Theory (CRT) has no business being taught in Missouri classrooms – but the vast majority of our schools are not doing that,” Parson tweeted Monday night.
“Missouri schools are teaching diversity, equity, and inclusion to help prepare our students for life and for the workforce by allowing them to better understand and respect each other’s differences,” he continued. “However, we do NOT need the extreme teachings of CRT in order to accomplish that goal.”
Parson reiterated that Missouri has always granted local communities and boards control, which he supports.
“I believe in local control and our state has a long history of valuing local control, and that is why local schools districts have statutory authority over curriculum,” Parson wrote. “Individual schools receive direct input from teachers & parents and know best how to address these topics.”
Parson’s tweeted comments surfaced hours after a parade of witnesses provided by No Left Turn in Education, a nationwide grassroots organization that supports parents opposed to their children being taught critical race theory, were invited to speak before the Joint Education Committee by chair Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina.
O’Laughlin explained the exclusive “topic of the meeting” was to highlight parents’ anger with an alleged “lack of transparency and, in some cases, deceit” by some school officials and boards in imposing critical race theory into curriculums without public discussion.
O’Laughlin said she had invited Dr. LaGarrett King, director of the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education at the University of Missouri, “to come, to get his perspective. He’s taught seminars [on teaching critical race theory] across the state but declined.”
The stacked speaker list drew mild pushback from panel Democrats, including Rep. Ingrid Burnett and Sen. Lauren Arthur, both of Kansas City, during the hearing.
“This mindless anger is meant to chill educators from even broaching the subject of race in our nation which has been an undeniable part of our country since before its founding,” Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, told reporters afterward.
Critical race theory has emerged as a hot-button issue for Republicans nationwide.
State school boards in Florida, Georgia, Utah and Oklahoma have adopted guidelines barring critical race theory and/or the New York Time’s 1619 Project while lawmakers in seven states – Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona – have passed bills banning it from public schools.
Missouri lawmakers attempted to adopt a bill banning critical race theory during their 2021 session.
House Bill 952, filed by Rep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson, died in the House Rules Committee. Attempts to revive it as an amendment to unrelated bills failed.
O’Laughlin, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, and House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee chair Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, in a May letter asked Parson to call a special session to “prevent or curtail” teaching critical race theory, which they called “divisive and unnecessary.”
On July 6, Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, dispatched a letter signed by 67 state lawmakers urging Parson to issue an executive order banning critical race theory.
“I believe the destructive nature of this type of teaching demands immediate executive action until the Legislature can address it,” Moon wrote.
Parson’s tweet essentially means it will require lawmakers to adopt legislation banning critical race theory during their 2022 legislative session.