I find it sad that Sen. John Cornyn, whom I’ve always liked, is sponsoring the Civics Secures Democracy Act. As we have explained, per Stanley Kurtz, this legislation, coupled with the new Biden rule favoring education grants that push Critical Race Theory, is a disaster for America. It will result in the large scale indoctrination of America’s students in the teachings of BLM and others who despise America and its founding.
Yesterday, the Civics Alliance convened by the National Association of Scholars issued an open letter to Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Tom Cole, the Republican House sponsor of Civics Secures Democracy. The letter appeals to them to withdraw their co-sponsorship, particularly in light of the new Biden rule.
Cornyn has rejected the appeal based on claims he presents here. The Senator maintains that the Civics Secures Democracy Act will actually prevent the Biden administration from forcing Critical Race Theory onto America’s schools.
However, as Stanley Kurtz shows, Cornyn’s response is inaccurate and fails entirely to allay the concerns about his bill expressed by the signatories of the open letter.
The Senator makes two arguments. First, he contends that his bill “actually prohibits the Biden administration from establishing federal curriculum, like CRT.” Unfortunately, says Stanley, this is both mistaken and misleading:
It’s true that the bill includes a “rule of construction” stating that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the Secretary of Education to prescribe a civics and history curriculum.” Notice that this is not a “prohibition.” It merely says that nothing in the bill shall be construed to “authorize” the secretary of education to “prescribe” a civics and history curriculum.
Stanley points out that the same sort of language was operative when former president Obama pressed Common Core on the states. It did nothing to block Common Core.
The conditions imposed by Obama on his Race to the Top grants may not have met the legal requirements for “prescribing” a formal “national curriculum,” at least as adjudicated at the time. Nonetheless, they were perfectly sufficient to take control of the direction of American education in math and reading.
Similarly, well before Biden reaches the current de jure legal definition of prescribing a national curriculum, he can easily impose action civics and Critical Race Theory on the nation via the multibillion-dollar carrots authorized by Cornyn’s bill and the national tests that states would be required to administer to their students by that bill. The content of Biden’s rule on Critical Race Theory makes that all too clear.
Cornyn’s second claim is that his bill will actually prevent Biden from imposing the priorities contained in his new rule on Critical Race Theory. That’s because, according to the Senator, the grants authorized by the Civics Secures Democracy Act are “formula grants,” as opposed to grants to be disbursed at the discretion of the secretary of education.
Thus, says Cornyn, the grants under his bill will be disbursed to various states according to an automatic formula relying on neutral criteria such as their population in relation to other states, thereby preventing the secretary of education from exercising discretion by deploying the pro–1619 Project and pro–Critical Race Theory criteria in Biden’s new rule.
But Stanley points out that, in fact, the Civics Secures Democracy Act explicitly authorizes the secretary of education to makes grants to the states (and to other entities such as nonprofits, educational institutions, etc.) on a competitive basis.
Section 103(a) of the bill states: “The Secretary of Education is authorized to make grants to states, on a competitive basis, to support educational programs in civics and history . . .” (emphasis added). (See the text of the bill, Page 8, Lines 22-23.) It’s true that once a particular state has won a grant competition, the amount of its grant will be determined by a formula based on factors such as its population relative to other states. (Page 9, Lines 1-4) But the grants themselves are to be awarded at the discretion of the secretary of education, based on his judgment as to which proposals best fulfill the priority criteria outlined in the bill itself.
Thus, the door is open for the Biden administration to favor action civics. In fact, Cornyn’s bill all but invites this:
[It] allows the secretary of education to award grants based on his judgment as to which have the greatest potential to “improve knowledge and engagement among students traditionally underserved,” or to “close gaps in knowledge and achievement among students of different income levels, racial and ethnic groups, and native languages.” (Pages 7, Line 24—Page 8, Line 11) The new Biden rule explicitly favors Critical Race Theory because it takes the position that CRT is the best way to address the needs of traditionally underserved students with diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds.
In other words, Biden’s education secretary does indeed have discretion to decide on which states, nonprofit organizations, higher-education institutions, etc., should win competitions for grants. And the new Biden rule creates guidance that meshes with the priority criteria already in the Civics Secures Democracy Act. The result will be that the Cornyn bill, in practice, will be used by the Biden administration in just the way Obama used Common Core — and with the additional ability to cut off funding to states whose students are not learning the curriculum effectively imposed by the mandated national test. The massive civics grants will serve as politically irresistible carrots that will commit states to forcing ideas such as the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory onto their school districts — even the most conservative districts in deep-dyed red states.
In sum, Cornyn’s defense of his bill is untenable. It’s scandalous that he’s sponsoring legislation that would hand the keys to the civics education kingdom to BLM and the hard left.