Virginia School District's 'Anti-Racist' Curriculum Could Cost Taxpayers $280K

Students at an elementary school in Ashburn, Va. / Getty Images
May 6, 2021

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia could shell out up to $280,000 of taxpayer funds for a pricey equity consultant to develop an "anti-racist" curriculum for public school students.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced the school would develop "a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy" in an email sent to parents Thursday, which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The district will pay the Leadership Academy for equity training sessions, according to the group’s March contract with Fairfax County Public Schools.

Fairfax is the latest Virginia school district to prioritize "anti-racism" in education during the coronavirus pandemic. Arlington County Public Schools required teachers to undergo an equity training session last fall. Loudoun County Public Schools adopted a "Culturally Responsive Framework" last June, which called for the school community to dismantle "systemic racism" and asked teachers to audit the K-12 curriculum to include lessons on identity, power, and privilege.

The complete menu of equity training sessions outlined by the Leadership Academy could cost the district between $240,000 to $280,000, depending on which lessons the district selects and whether instruction is offered virtually or in-person. A spokesperson for Fairfax schools did not respond to the Free Beacon's inquiry on how much the district spent on the program.

Founded in 2003, the Leadership Academy works on "dismantling systemic inequities in schools," with a focus on training teachers and faculty to be "culturally responsive." The nonprofit provides "equity audits" for school districts and has worked for more than 200 schools across 37 states and Washington, D.C.

Leadership Academy coaching sessions cost $6,700 per person for online or $9,100 for "blended" instruction. Group sessions for five staffers cost between $12,000 and $14,000, depending on the mode of instruction. Virtual Equitable Practice coaching for groups of 16-30 people costs more than $30,000.

Fairfax County Public Schools employs thousands of staff members, including nearly 200 principals and 15 regional assistant superintendents and executive principles.

Brabrand said his district is dedicated to "realizing a vision of educational equity" to create a school system where students feel "empowered." His email asked parents to take a survey, which questioned whether they think Fairfax County teachers are well-equipped to discuss race and racism in the classroom.

The survey asks parents if curriculum "should give students opportunities to recognize injustices that systems create," whether "teachers should have materials to guide them in creating anti-racist and anti-biased classroom environments," and if Fairfax schools allow students to "develop positive self-identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society."

A parent of two Fairfax County high school students told the Free Beacon that the survey "starts with the presumption that racism is rampant in our schools when it simply is not."

"Our schools should be places to learn, not places to divide, and the narrative being advanced is corrosive and divisive," the parent said.

Rory Cooper, a parent of three Fairfax elementary school students, said Brabrand’s time would be better spent working to fix coronavirus-related learning loss.

"Many students in Fairfax County are still only getting two days a week of instruction, and nobody is getting more than four days a week," Cooper told the Free Beacon. "Scott Brabrand should focus his attention on getting more kids in school and repairing the damage he’s caused over the last year right now."

Most Fairfax students spent the majority of the week learning virtually until April. Cooper noted that districts like Fairfax that haven’t fully reopened for in-person learning are often the ones pushing for radical curriculum changes.

This isn’t Fairfax’s first attempt to inject radical elements into its K-12 curriculum. Fairfax teachers last summer developed an "anti-racist" curriculum borrowing framework from Learning for Justice, the educational arm of the liberal nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center formerly known as Teaching Tolerance.