The Education Department in June held a weeklong hearing to begin dismantling DeVos’ regulation on how schools must handle reports of sexual misconduct. It also made its mark on civics education by rejecting former President Donald Trump’s demands for promoting a rosier view of American history and “patriotic” education, by praising The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which Trump has called “toxic propaganda.” Talk of school choice, a topic that DeVos championed throughout her tenure, has also been placed on the back burner.
“It’s not a surprise that the Biden Education Department is doing precisely what they promised in the campaign, which is trying to undo just about everything that their predecessor did,” said Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform, which advocates for school choice.
Paxton is defending DeVos’ Title IX rule from a barrage of lawsuits, while Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has signed a law creating the “1836 Project,” a reference to the year Texas declared independence from Mexico. Trump’s 1776 Commission, a panel he created after last summer’s civil unrest as a counterpoint to the 1619 Project’s emphasis on American slavery, is still meeting despite being disbanded by President Joe Biden in January. New parents groups are also pushing back on civics education that highlights systemic racism.
West Virginia became the latest state to expand its charter school system. And pandemic-spurred public school closures created the “clearest case I’ve seen for school choice in our lifetime,” Scott said in an address to rebut Biden’s first address to Congress.
“Those of us who’ve worked through all different administrations appreciate when the states step up and take their rightful position, making sure parents are put ahead of bureaucracies,” Allen said.
Here are three policy areas where DeVos’ supporters are hoisting the biggest defenses:
Civics — Larry Arnn and Parents Defending Education
The resurrected 1776 Commission, led by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, held its first post-election meeting last month with a focus on civic education curricula.
The group has commended conservative states that have turned their attention toward developing “a genuine civics education that will rebuild our common bonds, our mutual friendship and our civic devotion.” The commission is still drawing up a curriculum designed in the “true spirit of 1776.”
Arnn’s group is also urging parents who believe in their cause to run for school board and vote in those elections.
“There is no more powerful force than parents’ love for their children, and this restoration will depend on mothers and fathers demanding that their children are no longer taught false narratives or fed hateful lies about our country,” the commission said.
At least one group of parents has rallied to the 1776 cause: Parents Defending Education.
Led by Nicole Neily, who also serves as president of national campus free speech organization Speech First, Parents Defending Education has been filing complaints against public school systems with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. They have targeted school groups for minority students as promoting racial segregation and anti-racist actions taken by schools.
The group filed a complaint against Ohio’s Columbus City Schools in May, after it admitted in April 2021 that “Systemic racism … has existed for 175 years within the Columbus City Schools education system.” Parents Defending Education said in a statement that the admission of systemic racism “raises questions as to why Columbus City Schools continues to receive federal funds since discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
The complaint is similar to an Education Department probe launched under DeVos into Princeton University last summer after the school’s president said students there face “systematic racism” and that racism is “embedded” in the structures of the university.
“Parents Defending Education’s work is nonpartisan,” the group said in a statement. “We oppose discrimination in America’s schools, period. If the Education Department adopts policies frustrating that ideal, we will continue to speak up, submit comments, and pursue the appropriate remedies to protect parents’ and students’ rights.”