If an issue is ripe for demagoguery, Todd Rokita will be on it like a dog on a bone. The phony outrage over what schools teach about race was made to order for the Indiana attorney general.
Rokita came out Wednesday with a “parents bill of rights” that purports to educate parents about their right to understand and be engaged in their children’s education. That sounds reasonable; but for Rokita, it’s an excuse to dive into a culture war.
Predictably, he jumps on the right-wing bandwagon to attack critical race theory and the 1619 Project. Never mind that K-12 schools almost never teach CRT, a theoretical framework for examining the role of race in society that may be taught in law or graduate schools. Or that the 1619 Project is exactly what it claims to be: an attempt to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
Rokita lists six “rights” for parents with regard to their children’s education: the right to question school officials, to question the school’s curriculum, to expect schools to comply with the law, to participate in setting state academic standards, to review instructional materials and to run for school board.
School officials say the Community Eligibility Program for providing students with free lunch and breakfast has been a resounding success. It has reduced paperwork, provided more students with healthy meals and kept more money in the hands of families.
In Indiana, at least 120 schools serving 58,000 students – nearly half the schools and students that currently participate – could be bounced out of the program.
Community Eligibility was created by a 2010 reauthorization of the federal school nutrition law and became available to schools nationwide in 2014-15. It enables high-poverty schools and school districts to offer free meals to all their students without forcing families to show they meet income requirements.
The law says schools and districts are eligible if at least 40 percent of their students are directly certified as eligible for free school meals; that typically means their families participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) or the students are homeless or in foster care.
Under Rokita’s proposal, that threshold would rise to 60 percent.