AMAC Exclusive – By Katie Sullivan
In recent weeks, conservatives have raised the alarm over the so-called “Civics Secures Democracy Act” (CSDA), a $6.3 billion bill ostensibly aimed at improving K-12 history and civics education. But a number of high-profile voices, including Donald Trump, Laura Ingraham, Newt Gingrich, and Ron DeSantis have warned that the bill would actually pave the way for left-wing groups to receive billions of taxpayer dollars to push Critical Race Theory, gender ideology, and a host of other anti-American concepts in the classroom. The key to understanding the intense controversy over the bill is to examine its grant structure, which bears striking similarity to other allegedly nonpartisan programs that resulted in the public funding of far-left political priorities and creates a number of concerning loopholes the Biden administration and left-wing education groups can use to advance their agenda.
Put simply, the CSDA would create a pool of grant money to be distributed to schools and other education groups with the stated purpose of bettering student understanding of history and civics. The problems arise when it comes to how the grant money will be allocated – namely, by the Biden Department of Education (DOE). Once Congress allocates the funding, politically appointed bureaucrats at DOE will decide who receives that funding.
Proponents of the legislation – including Republican Senators John Cornyn (TX), Bill Cassidy (LA), and Jim Inhofe (OK) – argue that the bill contains “protections” to prevent funding from being used to politicize education or create a de facto national curriculum on radical left-wing terms. But a closer look at the language of the bill leaves ample reason to question that assessment. While Republicans can include statements that funding should not go toward certain types of projects (like pushing CRT or “equity” programming), they ultimately have no power to limit who the Biden administration chooses to receive the grant money.
Once the money is appropriated by Congress, the Biden administration and outside groups have several tools at their disposal to funnel the grant money to fund their political agenda.
With all grant programs, federal agencies publish lists of “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) that provide information to grant applicants about what types of proposals will be accepted. FAQs are not “facts” and are not binding. Thus, they are a great way for the administration to telegraph to outside groups about what type of proposed projects will receive federal dollars – in this case, to make clear that only grants promoting the left-wing version of history and civics will be accepted.
The current version of the CSDA also contains vague definitions for basic terms like “civics” and “underserved groups” to provide the Biden administration wiggle room to implement their preferred programming. As Stanley Kurtz has outlined for National Review, the bill’s focus on “traditionally underserved students” is enough for the Biden administration to justify radically altering civics curriculum for everyone under the guise of “serving” these students.
The Department of Education also has the power to set its own “funding priorities,” further empowering them to use congressionally allocated dollars to advance their partisan agenda. For example, last year, Biden Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona published a set of priorities that held up the 1619 Project and CRT scholars like Ibram X. Kendi as positive examples of “culturally sensitive” teaching. These Priorities sent a message to every school in America that if they want federal grant money, they must hew their curriculum to align with the false version of history promoted by Kendi and other left-wing activists.
38 Republican Senators – including the three Republican sponsors of the CSDA – blasted the Priorities in a letter, specifically citing “divisive, radical and historically-dubious buzzwords and propaganda.” Ultimately, DOE revised the guidance to remove the specific offending language, but had they not, Congress would have had few, if any options to force the reversal.
Moreover, should the CSDA pass, members of the public won’t even have the chance to offer input on how the grants should be awarded. While priorities for any given discretionary program are typically open for comment by the public, for first-time grant programs, such as the CSDA, no public comment regarding funding priorities will be considered.
Even under Republican control, the left has shown that they understand how to work the grant system to fund their political agenda with taxpayer dollars. In 2019, DOE and the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a grant of $650,000 to sponsor the “Educating for American Democracy” (EAD) coalition. More than 300 educators gathered for three years and produced a 40-page “Roadmap” calling for a “redefining” of civics education. While that effort was also supposedly “nonpartisan,” more than 96% of the educators on the coalition were leftists, and the Roadmap they produced took an axe to the legacy of the founding, replacing it with woke identity politics and charges of “systemic racism.” Writing for American Greatness, John Fonte detailed how the Roadmap embraces “a neo-Marxist narrative of “systems of oppression,” and is “a left-wing product in tune with the latest theories of the wokerati,” while Mark Bauerline wrote for City Journal that EAD’s attempt to “’renew’ civic education and ‘reinvent’ U.S. democracy smuggle[s] in a rejection of the American Founding.”
Should the CSDA pass, groups like EAD and iCivics, one of the groups most actively involved in leading the production of EAD’s “Roadmap” and a key national player in pushing CRT in classrooms, would likely stand to receive a massive financial windfall. As with most pools of grant money, some is set aside for nonprofits to “train” grant recipients in whatever way the government entity providing the funds sees fit. In this case, the Biden DOE would be able to work directly with the EAD coalition to ensure that their decidedly left-wing interpretation of American history and civics makes its way into every classroom.
When it comes to the Civics Secures Democracy Act, the left appears hopeful that most Americans – and even most Republican legislators – won’t connect the dots and realize the corrupt game they are playing to radicalize American history and civics education. But as the evidence continues to pile up, and as backlash continues to grow against those few Republicans backing the bill, the left may soon find that a license to tear up and rewrite American history and civics is one prize they just can’t have.
Katharine “Katie” Sullivan was as an Acting Assistant Attorney General and a senior advisor to the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Trump. She previously served 11 years as a state trial court judge in Colorado.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now