Top Ohio Republican Partnered With 'Antiracist' Education Group

Ohio secretary of state Frank LaRose cut ties with Kids Voting Ohio after Free Beacon inquiry

Ohio secretary of state Frank LaRose / YouTube Screenshot
July 29, 2021

A left-wing activist group that provides parents and teachers with radical "antiracism" teaching materials won the endorsement of Ohio's Republican secretary of state—who says he was unaware of the radical content and has cut ties with the group.

Ohio secretary of state Frank LaRose in January threw his support behind Kids Voting Ohio, a group "committed to creating lifelong voting habits in children" by providing them with "all the resources necessary for informed civic engagement." LaRose joined the group's board of directors and its website homepage featured the official logo of LaRose's office, pointing to the secretary of state as one of its main partners. 

Also on the homepage was a link to the group's "Anti-Racism in Classrooms" resources. Among the resources linked to are "culturally responsive teaching," author Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist, and a video on "white rage."

A spokesman for LaRose told the Washington Free Beacon that the secretary was unaware of this aspect of Kids Voting Ohio when he gave it his stamp of approval, saying the group took a left turn after securing the endorsement. 

"Secretary LaRose is no longer affiliated with Kids Voting Ohio, nor have we participated in any recent board meetings or the development of any of their content. We were asked to join a few months ago because at the time we shared the goal of engaging young people in Ohio’s safe, secure, and accessible elections," LaRose spokesman Robert Nichols said. "Unfortunately, the group has strayed far afield."

LaRose's office says he requested to leave the board in June after the group refused to remove the "antiracism" material, and that Kids Voting Ohio didn't incorporate the material until after a May board meeting that LaRose did not attend. But the resource page appeared on the website as early as March 6, the Free Beacon found. LaRose's logo remained on the Kids Voting Ohio homepage until last week. It was removed shortly after a Free Beacon inquiry about his support for the group.

"Antiracist" educators are increasingly using soft rhetoric to avoid criticism from those who don't want radical ideas in classrooms. LaGarrett King, a University of Missouri professor and critical race theory scholar, for example, encouraged teachers to edit the "verbiage" they use in their lessons on social justice to avoid criticism from parents.

Kids Voting Ohio did not respond to a request for comment. The group, a local affiliate of the national group Kids Voting USA, has the support of Ohio's largest teachers’ union. It pledges to bring "project-based learning" to K-12 classrooms across Ohio—so-called action civics programs encourage students to become politically active by linking grades to political activism.

Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told the Free Beacon that those who promote action civics often mask their more radical positions with seemingly innocuous wording to win the support of officials like LaRose.

"Action civics advocates deliberately cloak their radical politics in benign-sounding phrases like ‘civic engagement,’" Kurtz said. "Far too many Republicans and conservatives are misled by this innocent-sounding label into supporting programs that amount to leftist indoctrination, very much including action civics and the overlapping Critical Race Theory approach."

Kids Voting Ohio’s website advertises resources from Learning for Justice, the educational arm of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center. The group also touts resources from the Illinois Civics Hub, which Kurtz called "a model resource" for critical race theory-based lessons and action civics.

The trend of promoting "civic engagement" pressures students to do the bidding of left-wing activists. 

"Action civics forces students to engage in political protests and lobbying as part of their coursework," Kurtz said. "Through a combination of teacher bias, peer pressure, and the biases of the nonprofits that partner with schools that adopt action civics, student action civics protests are almost invariably for leftist causes."