A Pennsylvania state senator is working on legislation to abolish the commonwealth’s new Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education (CR-SE) guidelines that impose leftist ideology on teachers and students. 

The document instructs teachers to “know and acknowledge that biases exist in the educational system,” biases the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) specifies as “racial and cultural.” Educators are further called on to “believe and acknowledge that microaggressions are real and take steps to educate themselves about the subtle and obvious ways in which they are used to harm and invalidate the existence of others.” Another guideline tasks teachers with “disrupt[ing] harmful institutional practices, policies, and norms by advocating and engaging in efforts to rewrite policies, change practices, and raise awareness.” 

State Senator Michele Brooks (R-Greenville) (pictured above) explained in a summary of her emerging bill that she expects the regulations, which PDE released last November, to hinder educators’ ability to foster civility and focus on learning.

“At a time when we should be striving to build unity in our schools, these new guidelines will create unnecessary division,” the senator wrote. “We should be working together to develop beneficial approaches for teachers and other personnel to relate to student’s educational needs rather than insisting on divisive frameworks.”

Brooks isn’t the only Keystone State official who fears the CR-SE guidelines will force racialism and progressive doctrine into K-12 education. Three school districts north of Pittsburgh — Laurel School District, Mars Area School District and Penncrest School District — are suing PDE to end the guidelines. The districts, joined in their petition by some of their teachers and families, believe the requirements violate provisions of both the state and federal constitutions that protect freedom of conscience and speech. The plaintiffs also aver that the agency evaded the regulatory process. 

While creating the guidelines, the state did not “invite, accept, review and consider written comments from the public regarding the proposed regulation” as required by Pennsylvania’s Regulatory Review Act, a statute the school districts argue applies to the directives. The act further states that a department creating new regulations “may hold public hearings if appropriate.” 

The petitioners, represented by the nonprofit Thomas More Society, also asserted in their initial Commonwealth Court filing that the CR-SE requirements “are vague, ambiguous, overly broad, not clearly defined, not objectively measurable, not based upon the curricular standards outlined in… the State Board of Education regulations, inconsistent with the Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators… [and] inconsistent with the provisions of the Public School Code.”

PDE is requiring teacher-certification programs to feature competencies the state outlined in its CR-SE regulations by the 2024-25 academic year. Teachers’ continuing-education programs must include them by the upcoming school year. 

When PDE Acting Secretary Khalid N. Mumin announced the regulations last November, he touted them as “part of our work to ensure equity and promote success for all students in the commonwealth.” His department did not return a request for comment.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Michele Brooks” by Senator Michele Brooks. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Kumar Appaiah. CC BY-SA 2.0.