Georgia’s Senate Bill 220 Paved the Way for Highly Divisive Ideology to Be Taught In Our Children’s Classrooms

Georgia’s Senate Bill 220 Paved the Way for Highly Divisive Ideology to Be Taught In Our Children’s Classrooms

By: Melissa Jackson

On January 29th, 2024, Dr. Marc Bauerlein, emeritus professor at Emory University, wrote an article about a grant issued by the National Endowment For The Humanities under the direction of iCivics, a nonprofit, to Educating for American Democracy, EAD, another nonprofit. The program director, Louise Dube, is CEO of iCivics and a Principal Investigator at EAD.  The grant was awarded $1,702,498 for the ‘Implementation Phase of the Educating for American Democracy Initiative: Pilot Projects in Elementary.’ 

Georgia was one of the recipients of a portion of this grant money.  We have filed open records with the Georgia DOE but have been told no records relating to this grant/pilot were available. According to EAD’s press release, the grant was awarded to the Georgia Council of Social Studies in partnership with the Georgia Center of Civic Engagement and the Georgia Department of Education. The implementation phase of the EAD Roadmap, which defines the framework for the grant, is handled by the Implementation Consortium, which consists of nonprofits and academic elites throughout the country. 

According to EAD, they serve as “centers for excellence for EAD implementation that support the long-term realization of the vision of EAD for our nation by sponsoring exemplary projects that achieve implementation with the integrity of the EAD Roadmap in domains such as curriculum, professional development, civic learning plans, state standards, and research.”

Our findings from assessing the EAD Roadmap and recommended EAD lesson plans support Dr. Marc Bauerlein’s statements in his article that while on the surface the intent to educate our elementary on civics and history seems innocuous and sincere, the details of the Roadmap and lesson plans confirm the intent is to create socially progressive activists from our elementary aged Georgia children. More on the details of the curriculum and how dark money is ushering this content in can be found in our article here. 

How did we get here?

The EAD Roadmap and recommended lesson plans and focus include highly politicized content. At a time, according, to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, when proficiency rates in Georgia for 3rd graders are 24.3% in English language and 31.1% in math.  We should remove and avoid politicized content. In fact, per Code section O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1011, Georgia cannot have politicized content in the classroom.

You might be asking yourself, who is responsible in Georgia for determining standards and curriculum (instruction)?  Let’s break that down.

Senate Bill 220
Laws, Rules and Rights, Kelly Himes Brolly

The Georgia Constitution, Ga. Const. Art. VIII, § II, clearly states who holds the authority to determine standards and content in our government schools.  A state constitutional amendment would need to be made to change the structure of Georgia’s public education system.

How did Senate Bill 220 expand authority to nonprofits?

In the 2021-2022 session, the Georgia legislature created and passed into education law SB 220, which created the Georgia Commission on Civics Education.  Not all legislators voted YES to this bill.     

Here are the relevant highlights from the bill.

  • Senate Bill 220 is an act to amend Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to education. ​
  • The bill also creates the Georgia Commission on Civics Education, which aims to promote and enhance civic education in the state. ​
  • The commission will consist of 17 members, including legislators, educational organization representatives, and others. ​
  • The commission will review conditions, needs, issues, and problems related to civics education and issue an annual report to the General Assembly. ​
  • The bill includes provisions for the terms, duties, and reimbursement of commission members. ​
  • The head of the Department of Education social studies program will report annually to the commission on the conditions and needs of the program. ​
  • The report shall encourage local school systems to recruit and utilize supplemental resources from appropriate local and community organizations (mostly likely nonprofits) that promote civics and civics education as their primary purpose.
  • The bill will become effective upon approval by the Governor or becoming law without such approval. ​

What happened with the EAD Grant in Georgia?

We reached out to Dr. Randall Trammell, CEO of the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement (“the Center”), a Georgia non-profit.  Per GA SB220, a representative from this non-profit is 1 of 4 positions appointed by the Governor to the newly created Georgia Commission on Civics Education (“the Commission.”) Mr. Randall was also appointed by the Governor as chairman of the Commission. Interestingly, when you search the internet for the  Commission, results point you to the Center at georgiacivics.org. There does not appear to be any separation between the Center and the Commission although one appears to be a non-profit and one appears to be a legislatively-appointed commission. 

Dr. Trammell told us that the Georgia Council for the Social Studies  (“GCSS) discovered the alarming content and decided it was not in the best interests of Georgia students. We emailed Dr. Rhonda Webb, GCSS Executive Director, requesting written confirmation of the cancellation, as well as any liability for grant money used to date, but we received no response at the time of publication. We also requested confirmation of the EAD program cessation from the GADOEIn an email dated March 12, 2024, Joy Hatcher, Social Studies Program Manager stated that there “is currently  no EAD grant in partnership with the GADOE and the workshops …did not take place.”

Ms. Hatcher also informed us that it was her understanding the CTAE department “is developing elementary standards for all of their CTAE clusters, including Government and Public Administration, and all of those standards will follow the appropriate protocol for standards approval.”  

Freedom in Education confirmed via email with Roger Ivey, GADOE Program Manager for CTAE Program Delivery, that the GADOE is reviewing and finalizing the draft CTAE K-5 Government and Public Administration Cluster standards for submission to the State Board by mid to late summer. It would appear that the drafting of K-5 Government and Public Administration CTAE standards was prompted by the iCivics EAD award since it was noted by a GADOE representative that these standards did not exist at the time of the award. The CTAE program for Government and Public Administration teaches students how to plan and execute more operational federal, state, and local government functions. One also should ask why Georgia is teaching K-5 how to run the government, and is this what we want K-5 to be learning?  

We hope the grant was indeed canceled, and one would expect a written media statement or at least an in-office memorandum amongst those in the partnership. We are still pursuing written confirmation. 

Why would we invite nonprofits’ influence into our K-12 classrooms in a politically divided world? 

By doing this, are we allowing nonprofits to usurp the authority of the State Board of Education and Local Boards of Education (local control) to determine or heavily influence public school content, professional development content, and potentially state standards?  

Are Georgia’s voters being suppressed by allowing a commission and nonprofits to determine curriculum and standards for Georgia’s public schools? The people vote for local boards, state boards, and their legislators. They do not vote for those serving on commissions or nonprofits, so they cannot have a representative seat at the table regarding decisions these commissions and nonprofits make.

What are the implications?

The growing presence of nonprofits in government schools, commonly called public schools, should be a huge concern.  There seem to be more and more public-private partnerships established in Education over the last several years. For parents, it is frustrating because there is little transparency from government schools on which nonprofits are engaging with the schools, how much of an influence they provide, and how much of our tax dollars are being doled out to these nonprofits in exchange for consulting, professional development, and curriculum.  

Senate Bill 220Parents should know which nonprofits are impacting their children’s education and be able to research these nonprofits to understand their mission and educational agenda. Parents should also be able to express their dismay easily with nonprofits chosen by elected officials at the ballot box. The easiest path for parents would be the local and state board of education elections. We would encourage legislators to require transparency by passing legislation that requires schools AND school districts to publicly disclose the name and contractual obligations of all parties with which they have entered into a contractual agreement.

While collaboration between nonprofits and public education institutions can bring valuable resources and expertise to the table, that should be left to the State Board of Education and Local Boards of Education, provided the relationships are made transparent to the public.

The decision to codify nonprofits into the education code warrants careful consideration. Without robust safeguards and accountability mechanisms in place, this trend risks undermining the principles of transparency, nonpoliticized instruction, and academic educational needs of students.  As legislators navigate this complex terrain, it’s imperative to prioritize the academic priorities of students and their obligations to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars above all else.

We will still pursue efforts to obtain a written notice of cancellation to assure parents that the grant pilot has been abandoned.  We encourage legislators to read Dr. Kelly Hines Brolly’s book, and Rights to understand education law and carefully consider avoiding legislation that codifies nonprofits and NGOs in public education.

Senate Bill 220
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