Prominent Diversity Consulting Firm Funded Entirely by Taxpayer Dollars

Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium conducts 'anti-racist' trainings across 15 states and U.S. territories

The Department of Education / Getty Images
December 2, 2020

A prominent equity consulting firm that conducts "anti-racist" trainings is funded entirely by taxpayer dollars, tax filings reveal.

The Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC) is a self-proclaimed "social justice" nonprofit that conducts "anti-racist audits" for corporations and schools, often in partnership with far-left groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. The consortium was recently awarded a lucrative contract by Maryland's largest school district and works with educators across 15 states.

MAEC's influence comes at the taxpayer's expense. According to its most recent tax filings, the group hauled in $2 million solely from government grants between mid-2018 and mid-2019. It has not reported a single private donation in four years. MAEC's reach is made possible thanks to a partnership with the Department of Education.

Equity firms have profited greatly from the burgeoning anti-racist movement in academia. The MAEC was awarded a $454,680 contract with the Montgomery County Public School district to conduct an "anti-racist audit" of the school's policies; in nearby Loudoun County, a similar consulting firm raked in $422,500 in two years. Prominent diversity consultants, such as White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo, make nearly $13,000 for a speaking gig on college campuses.

The MAEC also touts a handful of left-leaning education partners, including the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Teaching Tolerance" arm, which pushes for students to learn about slavery beginning in kindergarten. The consortium is considered the main equity firm in the Mid-Atlantic region.

City Journal's Christopher Rufo told the Washington Free Beacon that taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for "divisive pseudosciences."

"This has become activists' primary strategy: securing taxpayer funds to push the deeply ideological agenda of critical race theory," Rufo said. "This kind of program plays on a double-standard. It would be unimaginable for a taxpayer-funded organization to teach a pro-life or pro-gun message in public school, but it has become commonplace to have taxpayer-funded organizations teaching extreme left-wing doctrine in public schools."

The MAEC has raked in a steady stream of government grants over the years. Of the $19 million the group has raised since 2001, $17 million is from taxpayer-backed cash, according to a review of its financial filings. Its most recent tax forms show that from mid-2018 to mid-2019, the group spent $1.6 million on "equity projects" to examine and address systematic policies and practices, nearly $233,000 on "family engagement" projects to build partnerships among schools and parents, and nearly $74,000 on youth projects. Susan Shaffer, the group's president, has received more than $200,000 in compensation, and Maria Del Rosario Basterra, its vice president, has collected more than $140,000 from the nonprofit.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the MAEC an equity assistance grant for the mid-Atlantic region in 2011. In return, the consortium worked with 850 school districts in 6 states to provide training and technical assistance. It appears to have expanded its footprint since that time, as it now operates in 15 states and U.S. territories, including several, such as Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, that are outside the mid-Atlantic region.

In September, President Trump issued an executive order banning federal contractors from teaching critical race theory or any "ideology rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country." The Department of Education is still contracted with the MAEC, per its website, despite the firm's overt embrace of such ideologies.

Neither the Department of Education nor the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium responded to requests for comment.