KS Education Commissioner emphasizes K-12 standards do not include Critical Race Theory

The Kansas State Board of Education holds its monthly meeting July 13, 2021.
The Kansas State Board of Education holds its monthly meeting July 13, 2021.(KS Dept. of Education / YouTube)
Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 8:36 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Amid increased debate over Critical Race Theory and its place in classrooms, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson stressed it is not a part of the Kansas curriculum.

In comments at the start of Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting, Watson said the K-thru-12 history, government, and social studies standards have “never, ever included Critical Race Theory, nor does it today.”

Board Chairman Jim Porter, R-Fredonia, requested the clarification from Watson after reading statements from candidates for public office he called “both inaccurate and irresponsible.”

In addition, Porter ended Tuesday’s session by presenting board members a draft of a letter he’d like to the board to send Gov. Laura Kelly and Kansas legislators. He described it as “a statement that accurately talks about the standards for social studies in Kansas.”

Porter asked board members to review the letter, and said they would discuss if further during Wednesday’s meeting during time slated to talk about legislative priorities and stakeholder engagement.

Legal and academic scholars define critical race theory as studying how racism may be embedded in various aspects of American life.

Some candidates for school board and other offices have suggested CRT is making its way into schools, and adding to racial tensions. Leading Republican gubernatorial candidates Jeff Colyer and Derek Schmidt have both signed the 1776 Pledge, which seeks to prevent teaching CRT in schools.

During the June 30 Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 school board meeting, members of the public were asked to leave when a discussion over CRT during the public comment portion of the meeting became heated. The item was not on the agenda, and the district has said it does not teach CRT.

Several other districts also maintained they do not teach CRT, but are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some issued statements ahead of Tuesday’s state board meeting.

“Wichita Public Schools does not teach Critical Race Theory. Our curriculum is research-based and rigorous, and is aligned to the Kansas State Department of Education standards,” read a statement from USD 259, the state’s largest district. “Recognizing that equity does not always mean equality, Wichita Public Schools provides support and resources to students based on data and student need.”

Olathe USD 233 also issued a statement, saying, “CRT is a theoretical approach to material generally discussed in higher education, not at the K-12 level. As a district, we remain steadfast in our commitment to equity, inclusion, and continuous improvement so that all students feel valued and are prepared for their future. We serve more than 30,000 students with diverse thoughts, beliefs, perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. Our job is to prepare all of them to achieve personal success.”

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