More Americans are uneasy about what children are learning in the classroom.
According to a new Fox News poll released Thursday, 73 percent of registered voters say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned about what is being taught in public schools amid an ongoing national debate over the addition of critical race theory to K-12 curricula.
The survey found that the only issues more worrying to voters are inflation and higher prices (87 percent extremely or very concerned) health care (76 percent) and political divisions in America (76 percent). Issues that rank behind education on the list of worries include unemployment (71 percent), the federal deficit (70 percent), the border crisis (69 percent) and the COVID-19 pandemic (67 percent).
Republicans (81 percent), parents (80 percent) and independents (74 percent) are far more likely to say they are extremely or very concerned about public school lessons, while just 63 percent of Democrats say they are extremely or very worried about the issue.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) say school administrators pushing a political agenda is a “major problem” in the US, compared to 57 percent who say the same of violent threats against public school officials and 54 percent who say the same of parents aggressively pushing a political agenda at school board meetings.
Around half (49 percent) of registered voters said that too much focus on race was a “major problem” in public schools, more than said the same of parents not having enough say over curricula (47 percent) and “overly accommodating transgender policies” (44 percent).
Earlier Thursday, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney General Merrick Garland over his Oct. 4 memo in which he that the FBI would probe what he called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Garland’s announcement was in response to a Sept. 29 letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), which stated that incidents involving parents protesting at school board meetings “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and asked the White House to “examine appropriate enforceable actions” under legislation including the post-9/11 Patriot Act.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, accused Garland of creating a “snitch line on parents” and claimed that “folks all around the country, they tell me, for the first time, they are afraid of their government.”
However, the Fox News poll found that 53 percent of registered voters — including 77 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of parents — believed the NSBA had asked for help because “school boards truly need extra protection from real threats.”
Just 40 percent — including 60 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of independents — said the ask was because educational authorities were trying to head off parental opposition to their policies.
Garland insisted on Capitol Hill Thursday that the Justice Department would not investigate parents who take issue with particular school board policies.
“The Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools,” he said. “That is not what the memorandum is about at all, nor does it use the words ‘domestic terrorism’ or ‘Patriot Act’.”
“I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children,” Garland added. “Nor can I imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism.”