Follow the Money
What is the Education and Civil Rights Initiative?
In August 2020, the NAACP launched a new education program, the Education and Civil Rights Initiative, in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation to address “racial inequities.”
In late September 2020, the initiative’s executive director, Gregory Vincent, moderated an online meeting, “Critical Race Theory: Why It Matters and What it Teaches Us.”
That day, the University of Kentucky announced senior administrators would be going through their own “anti-racist training,” as part of a first step in changing its “culture as a community united against systemic racism,” led by Candice Hargons, an assistant professor and counseling psychologist “with a national reputation in the field of anti-racism training.”
This initiative is a joint partnership between the University of Kentucky and the NAACP. The initiative is focused on educational equity, civil rights and social justice, and it is based in the department of educational policy studies and evaluation at the College of Education at the university, which is largely funding the initiative.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said of the initiative that “scholars will partner with students, educators, and communities to document the experiences of those facing educational disparities and use research to shape public policy.”
The director of the initiative is Gregory Vincent, a renowned civil rights attorney who just joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky. He is also the outgoing Grand Sire Archon of the Boule’, the nation’s first Greek-letter fraternity founded by African American men.
Researchers hired for the initiative include Sarah LaCour, arriving from the University of Colorado at Boulder, who will serve as an assistant director of the civil rights initiative, and Cheryl Matias, a scholar who studies culturally responsive education practices.
What services does the Education and Civil Rights Initiative provide?
In April 2021, the NAACP’s Education and Civil Rights Initiative held a webinar on critical race theory and ethnic studies.
That spring, the Education and Civil Rights Initiative held its first national conference in early May 2021, with K-12 education on the agenda. The speakers included Adora Nweze, education committee chair at the NAACP. The schedule had K-12 sessions, including “Implementing Anti-racist Education Across the Disciplines,” exploring “what antiracist teaching looks like in practice in K-12 educational settings.” The moderator was Sahara Alameh, an academic at the University of Kentucky.
What K-12 work has the Education and Civil Rights Initiative done?
San Francisco Unified School District
At a Feb. 2, 2021, school board meeting of the San Francisco Unified School District, an unlikely person – San Francisco school board member Alison Collins – coauthored Resolution No. 212-2A1, “In Response to Ongoing, Pervasive Systemic Racism at Lowell High School.” She was about to get into a lot of trouble for her own racist tweets and messages against Asian Americans.
In that February message, however, the school board announced it was initiating a “memorandum of understanding” with the Education and Civil Rights Initiative at the University of Kentucky College of Education in Lexington, Kentucky, “in collaboration” with the San Francisco NAACP, California NAACP, and National NAACP to “facilitate the creation of a Community Coalition to define and oversee an equity audit and resulting action plan to address the exclusion and ongoing toxic racist abuse that students of color, and specifically Black students, have experienced at Lowell High School since the school’s creation.”
On June 16, 2021, the San Francisco Unified School District signed a contract to pay the Education and Civil Rights Initiative $15,000 to conduct a “Lowell High School equity audit” for the 2021-2022 school year.
The plan included three phrases:
- Phase 1: “Establish An Action Committee, Distribute audit surveys, Hold Focus Groups to address admission issues at Lowell High School and racial bullying (particularly increase in incidents against Asian Americans).”
- Phase 2: “Using data from surveys & focus groups prepare action plan & recommendations. Conduct a policy review. Develop training plan recommendations to address growth areas identified in the equity audit and policy review.”
- Phase 3: “Develop a community-based peer review process to ensure the work progresses over time. Continued on-demand support and consultations.”
The local Lowell High School “Community Coalition” had a Sept. 1, 2021, deadline to issue a report on its unclear results. But the NAACP’s new consulting operation, Education and Civil Rights, could report a victory in its launch. It had gotten in the door at one of the United States’ premier high schools.
Paducah Public Schools
In March 2021, the Paducah Sun reported, “Paducah Public Schools sending out racial equity initiative survey for parents, community.”
The article reported that the school district had started a “Paducah Racial Equity Initiative” that was a “product of the University of Kentucky Education and Civil Rights Initiative, Millennium Learning Concepts and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
the article said, “The Paducah Independent School District Board came up with the idea of an initiative to oversee and improve racial equity in Paducah schools in 2019, but the onset of COVID-19 halted the idea in its infancy.”
Later, in May 2021, the local media reported, “Paducah Public Schools sending out racial equity initiative survey for parents, community.” The University of Kentucky’s Education and Civil Rights Initiative said: “This audit was introduced after a photo of Paducah Superintendent Donald Shively in blackface was spread widely online last year.”
The article continued, “Paducah-McCracken County NAACP President J.W. Cleary said he is happy to hear there will be a survey sent out.”