Shouldn’t schools be focused on teaching math and reading?

CHAMBERSBURG – With news coming from the Chambersburg Area School District (CASD) that they’re looking at equity and inclusion proposals, a number of people are wondering, what happened to basic reading, math and science?

Remember when schools taught basic life lessons, like balancing a checkbook?

CASD had two items on a committee agenda recently: a multi-year inclusion professional development and coaching and the LIU educational service proposal for district-wide consultation equity and inclusion. The LIU proposal would be a two-year contract.

These proposals were the result of an equity audit performed at some point in the recent past. We think. There’s not a lot of information on that, either.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the issue recently on the local morning news, talk, and information radio show – First News.

Ryan said, “…can we just get back to what we’re there for in the first place (in terms of education)? And the first thing it is let’s get some math, let’s get our reading skills. You keep asking for more and more money. You want to teach Critical Race Theory (teachers/schools)? You can knock yourself out. The minute you give every parent the absolute choice (school choice!) in which to spend their money how they see fit for their kid so I can send my kid to some place that’s going to educate them instead of indoctrinate them.”

Jansen added, “After worrying that the Chambersburg Area School District may be introducing Critical Race Theory through a two-year contract that they’re doing I contacted a school board member. They pushed me off to the administration. I thought the school board members were our liaisons with the administration?”

Additionally, an organization called A Long Talk 2020 provided anti-racism training for the CASD. The group reached out to News Talk 103.7FM.

“We’ve invited them to give us more information on their program,” Jansen said. “Maybe let me take the program. If we’re going to be giving this program to teachers and student leaders, which they say that’s what their aim is, then parents and community members should know exactly what that training is and we should be able to see it.”

The two-year contract is $30,000. It’s unclear how much the district paid A Long Talk 2020 for the training.

Barkdoll said, “Somebody needs to just file a right to know request to get that equity audit. That’s public information. If someone files that, they’re going to have to produce it. It would be interesting to know how that was done, what’s the methodology, what are the results, but I’m also really curious, how did this come onto the radar of the Chambersburg School District?”

If you check out the website of A Long Talk 2020, they profile about 20 entities that they call partners. Those partners include the University of Florida, Louisiana State University, West Virginia University, Michigan State. And then there’s little Chambersburg. In a list of those big named universities, how did Chambersburg get there?

“I’m not saying that it’s inappropriate,” Barkdoll noted. “I just find it very curious that our small school here is on the list of 20 partners with these nationally known universities. It’s just an odd situation.”

Jansen added, “They trumpeted on their Facebook page that Chambersburg Area School District, (is the) first one in the country. I’m sure they’re using that to get more school districts across the country to join up with them.”

One of the email responses the station received from A Long Talk 2020 reads like this:  Participatory experience that works to energize and empower allies in the pursuit of eradicating racism. In 2020 we successfully facilitated the A Long Talk Program to athletic coaches and academic leaders representing 40+ colleges and universities across the nation.

“The stuff that is inside this,” Ryan lamented. “Will you just learn something? If you just look at the test scores and you look at how the education system’s working here. We’re here for a reason. If you want to have The Long Talk and you want to do the CRT, go ahead. You give the people in the world school choice. Hand the keys back to the parents because I know the majority of the parents don’t think that their kids are born racists.”

Jansen said, “It basically states unequivocally this is a systemically racist country, founded on racism. It says that with no compunction that this is a theory, that this is only one point of view. That there are many experts who dispute that and dispute the teaching of that kind of thing.”

Ryan added, “This is a money grab, power grab and a bunch of monsters out there that are launching this crap on your kids. You’ve got to get involved.”

The one turning point here could be the upcoming standardized testing. Despite the debate that the standardized tests shouldn’t be given this year because of COVID, they’re happening.

Barkdoll pointed out, “If these standardized tests yield the results that some are fearful of and that is a dramatic decline in learning among a broad range of not only subjects, but age groups in public schools, I think you’re going to see increased pressure from parents and community members (that) we need to get back to teaching. We know a lot of these kids haven’t even been in school much of the year and if you see these standardized scores start tanking I think you’re going to see pressure on the board (that) you need to start eliminating all these collateral, extraneous programs and really get back to a focus on the basics of education.”