Down in Tennessee, a Republican stronghold where GOP lawmakers are going out of their way to strip Black folks and other marginalized people of their right to vote over imaginary voter fraud fears, another conservative conspiracy is underway: fears over critical race theory, an academic framework that explores how policies and laws inform systemic racism.
Lawmakers in the state have already passed a law that forbids the teaching of white privilege, sexism and racism. It was a direct attack on Critical Race Theory, even though the bill does not explicitly say so. By the way, there is no evidence of it being taught in any elementary or high schools in the United States, including Tennessee. In fact, it is generally taught at the graduate school level and at law schools. But none of that matters to Republicans in Tennessee, who are attempting to add the deterrent of financial penalties in case some teacher decides to try and teach high school kids some of Derrick Bell’s thinking.
Here are a few of the penalties, per the Washington Post:
The potential penalties were listed in guidance recently released by state education officials, which are open for public comment through Aug. 11. If the rules are imposed as stated, the state education department could withhold the lesser of $1 million or 2 percent of state funds allocated to schools deemed to have knowingly violated the state law, while failing to take “corrective action.”
Repeat offenders could forfeit $5 million, or forgo 10 percent of annual state funds, whichever is less. Authorities may also revoke, suspend or deny the licenses of individual teachers.
The average expenditure for a K-12 student in Tennessee public schools was roughly $10,000 for the 2018-2019 academic year, according to the state comptroller’s office, so a penalty of $1 million could translate to a year’s worth of education spending on 100 students.
Again, Critical Race Theory is not being taught in any public school in Tennessee, and no one has been able to provide proof that it is. That didn’t stop the state’s governor from blasting the framework.
“Critical race theory is un-American. It fundamentally puts groups of people above the sanctity of the individual, which is a founding principle of this nation,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) earlier this month.
Even though Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, people are pushing back. The Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission opposed the bill and state Democrats demanded a veto.
The GOP will get their way because they have the political power to do so. Republicans are already suppressing votes. Now they are focusing their attention on suppressing the truth.
That, Gov. Lee, is quintessential America.