CRT Forward Tracking Project Trends as of 12/20/2023

By Kamilah Mims

Recently released data from the CRT Forward Tracking Project reveals several new national, state, local, and content-specific trends. These trends include the following: (1) local school boards dominating California measures; (2) local school board policies shaping national policies; (3) forbidden book regulations decrease, highlighting changes in content oversight; (4) educational bills show a shift to higher education and governance, while K-12 focus persists; and (5) slight departures from Trump’s Executive Order 13950 language.

(1) Local school boards dominate California measures

All 13 measures arising out of California have been exclusively crafted by local school boards for K-12 institutions. This trend highlights the significant influence wielded by these boards in shaping classroom teaching and curricular content. 77% of these policies focus on regulating curricular content and revisions, while 61% emphasize shaping classroom teaching practices—influencing educational content and instructional methods. Certain aspects receive relatively lower regulatory attention. Only 15% of policies address training programs, while student education opt-out and forbidden books are each covered by 7% of policies. This indicates a comparatively lower emphasis on these specific areas within education policy. Notably, none of the policies include enforcement mechanisms such as funding allocations, private cause of action, vouchers, tenure denial or revocation, or teacher license revocation or termination. This suggests a reliance on the creation of policies without specific punitive measures, potentially emphasizing guidance and development over enforcement.

(2) Local school board policies shape national policies

Local school boards account for 26.9% of the total bills, indicating a significant role in shaping educational policies. Within this sphere, local school boards exhibit a comprehensive approach, shaping education delivery and structure by regulating conduct and content. Notably, 106 bills address classroom teaching, 145 bills regulate curricular content, and 31 bills focus on revising general EDI/antiracism policies. Despite limited use of enforcement mechanisms,, the majority of local school board policies favor guidance and policy creation over punitive measures.

(3) Forbidden book regulations decrease, highlighting changes in content oversight

In the transition from 2022 to 2023, there is a notable transformation in forbidden book policies, reflecting shifts in policymakers' priorities and approaches to educational content regulation. In 2022, a total of 29 policies, constituting 9% of the 292 bills introduced, were dedicated to the regulation of forbidden books. However, in 2023, the number of such policies decreased to 11 out of 200 bills, accounting for 5%. This marked reduction, amounting to a 62% decrease, indicates a discernible reevaluation of the emphasis placed on regulating reading materials within educational settings. All 11 policies regulating forbidden books in 2023 almost exclusively target K-12 institutions, indicating a concentrated effort to shape reading materials within primary and secondary education settings.

(4) Educational bills show a shift to higher education and governance, while K-12 focus persists

The trajectory of educational bills from 2022 to 2023 reveals a strategic shift in the targeted institutions by policymakers. While K-12 institutions maintain a central focus, there is a noticeable shift towards higher education and state and federal government. In 2022, 52 out of 292 bills, constituting approximately 17%, were directed at higher education institutions. However, in 2023, despite an overall decrease in the total number of measures, a similar number of measures (49 out of 200, making up 24%) targeted higher education. This trend highlights the reality that college campuses are now a significant focus of national anti-CRT campaigns, unlike in previous years. Additionally, state and federal government institutions, targeted by 12% of bills in 2022, experienced an increase to 26% in 2023, signaling a broader focus on governance structures. Despite this diversification, K-12 institutions remain the primary focus, constituting 72% of bills in 2023. This sustained emphasis underscores the enduring significance of shaping policies at the foundational level of education. The evolving trend suggests a nuanced and comprehensive approach to education policy development, reflecting a strategic evolution from 2022 to 2023.

(5) Slight departures from Trump’s Executive Order 13950 language

2023 marks a slight decrease in the emphasis on certain language derived from Trump's Executive Order 13950. In 2021, measures using language related to US institutions being "inherently" or "fundamentally" "racist" were prominent, accounting for 33% of measures. Similarly, measures including language referencing "discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race" were also substantial at 33% in 2021. However, a clear shift away from these specific content triggers is evident in the subsequent years. In 2023, the percentages for measures that use this language decreased to 15% and 19%, respectively, indicating a slight move by policymakers away from relying on this specific language from Trump’s Executive Order 13950. However, the use of other language from Executive Order 13950 remains constant, where content triggers like "Individual responsibility for systemic racism," "Meritocracy," and "Divisive Concepts" have maintained steady usage, indicating that policymakers continue to incorporate certain aspects of the Executive Order's language into their legislative efforts.

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