Can local school districts legally turn down the state’s Critical Race Theory mandate?

Jun 23, 2021

In April and May 2021, the state legislature passed SB 5044, SB 5227, SB 5228, and SB 5194, to require public education employees to receive training in “diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism” as a condition of employment. These bills impose requirements of “equity,” “cultural competency,” “institutional racism” and other elements of Critical Race Theory (CRT) ideology.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has set a deadline of September 1st for schools to adopt CRT under the label of a “Ethnic Studies Framework.”

Parents, students and local school officials across Washington are rightly worried about introducing race-based training and curriculum in public schools. They wonder if local communities can choose not to implement the mandate.

The answer is Yes – school officials can reject Critical Race Theory, “cultural competency,” “equity studies” and other forms of indoctrination that teach discrimination. Washington is a local control state, which gives school districts the legal authority to reject controversial learning materials. The cited authority is RCW 28A.150.230 (2) (g).

The strength of public education is local control. That is why school boards are elected locally, and why parents are encouraged to get directly engaged and become advocates for children.

Ongoing controversies (the CRT mandate is only the latest in a series of conflicts) is leading to growing calls for charter schools, vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and other popular forms of school choice. State law shows, however, that this is one issue on which families and local officials can reject a controversial state mandate, and keep local resources focused on what matters most – providing every child with a great education.

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