Debate in Frankfort over Critical Race Theory in KY public schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Legislature heard debate Tuesday, which was at times heated, about teaching Critical Race Theory in Kentucky public schools.

It’s an academic concept that’s been around more than 40-years. Some say it’s a way of understanding how American racism has shaped public policy, others say it’s divisive -pitting people of color against white people.

Republicans have pre-filed bills to keep CRT out of the classroom.

“CRT is simply identity-based Marxism – based solely off the color of ones’ skin,” Republican Representative Matt Lockett, of Nicholasville, said.

Lockett is pushing one of the bills.

He said CRT would make one group of students, minorities, feel oppressed, while another group of kids, white students, feel like they’re the oppressors.

“You don’t close achievement gaps or raise a segment of the population up by tearing another one down,” Lockett said.

However, opponents said CRT isn’t being taught in Kentucky schools, equity is. They say it’s a concept that’s key to inclusiveness.

“I urge Kentucky’s legislators not to follow in those authoritarian footsteps,” Kentucky Education Commissioner, Jason Glass, said.

“In our classrooms, we need our kids to be prepared for a world that is going to be challenging and is challenging,” Senator Gerald Neal, (D) Louisville, said.

Opponents also said the bills are too broad. Neither of them directly mention CRT.

“One of the tests for what’s offensive in these bills is not based on facts but on feelings of ‘discomfort, guilt, anguish,” Glass said.

There are more meetings scheduled later this summer before next year’s legislative session.


FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Much debate was had during the Interim Joint Committee on Education Tuesday morning as the topic of critical race theory was under discussion.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass provided his view of the importance of giving all students an equitable education. In his comments, he stated that critical race theory looks to explain why racism still exists. Primarily used in universities, the theory is supposed to give a framework for the possible causes and effects of societal racism and how they might alleviated.

According to Glass, decisions about curriculum and classroom resources is left to school-based decision making councils to determine. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) sets the Kentucky Academic Standards alongside teachers. Currently, KDE says it is not aware of any districts or teachers utilizing the theory and it does not appear in the Kentucky Academic Standards.

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio supported Glass’ thoughts on critical race theory.

“We have to give our students the world and let them determine their path,” Pollio said. “With the support of KDE and the Kentucky Board of Education, I believe we have the opportunity to be a true leader of this work in Jefferson County and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

When asked if there should be transparency in the development of curriculum, Hebron Middle School Principal Kelland Garland said it already exists.

Another topic discussed by Glass was the KDE’s focus on equity and the difference between that and critical race theory.

“Equity in education is fundamentally an effort to ensure that all of our students have the supports they need to meet our academic standards and to reach their full potential as students, citizens and human beings,” Glass said. “An equity focus in education recognizes that public school students come to us with a variety of backgrounds, needs, supports and experiences and that we must take those into account when we consider the education of each child.”

The KDE has developed an optional “equity toolkit” for schools and districts. The toolkit includes:

  • An equity dashboard, where differences in outcomes across several different student subgroups; and
  • An equity playbook, which includes five strategic moves a school or district can enact to improve equity, such as making sure that all students have access to high-quality instructional resources, evidence-based instructional practices and high-quality teachers.

KDE also is looking to increase and retain more minority educators as part of a larger effort called GoTeachKY.

Rep. Killiam Timoney of Fayette County also gave his perspective on the difference between equality and equity. The former Fayette County educator illustrated a real world example of the concept, saying that an emergency room physician giving every patient a Band-Aid would be equality.

“Equity would be determining what you needed and providing it for you in order to make it to the finish line, which would be regaining full health,” said Rep. Timoney.

Also discussed were the proposed legislation of  Bill Request (BR) 60 and BR 69 which aim to define what can and cannot be taught or discussed, either formally or informally, in Kentucky public schools related to a variety of concepts that include race and other controversial topics.

Glass discussed how instead of banning critical race theory, the General Assembly should consider legislation that forces those conversations to have balanced perspectives and “does not censor classroom discussions and does not threaten public educators.”

“I urge Kentucky’s legislators not to simply follow in those authoritarian footsteps and adopt this troubling legislation, but instead to adopt a better approach ­– one which is in keeping with our values as Kentuckians and Americans, and does not debase them,” said Glass.

Multiple committee members described the bill as “vague” and advised the bill’s sponsors to work on providing a clearer piece of legislation.

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