Democrats on the House Education and Workforce Committee accused Republicans of making “classrooms into the epicenter of their culture wars” during the panel’s first hearing of the year on Wednesday.
“Now, instead of working with Democrats to address the real issues in schools and institutions, Republican lawmakers are prioritizing culture wars and investigations,” Education Committee ranking member Bobby Scott (Va.) said, according to a copy of his opening remarks provided to The Hill.
During the “American Education in Crisis” hearing, Scott discussed how Republicans in some states “restrict teaching about certain topics” such as Critical Race Theory, are pushing through “anti-LGBTQ bills” and banning books from schools.
In announcing the hearing, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said the education system needs to focus more on “parental rights.”
“Our education system should work for students — not the other way around,” Foxx said. “Our K-12 education system should promote education freedom, protect parental rights, and provide concrete solutions to address learning loss. Sadly, it’s not just our K-12 system that is failing families. Colleges and universities aren’t being held accountable for poor outcomes, staggeringly high prices, and failing to prepare students for the workforce. One-party Democrat rule exacerbated each of these problems, but Republicans are ready to get to work.”
There were four witnesses at the hearing, with three chosen by Republicans: Virginia Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum; Monty Sullivan, president of Louisiana Community and Technical College System; and Scott Pulsipher, president of the nonprofit Western Governors University.
Democrats used their one witness to tap Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D).
A House Democratic aide told The Hill that Polis was selected because he was a member of the committee when he was a congressman and lawmakers believe he can shine a light on how the education culture war has impacted his state, where he was reelected to a second term in November.
The House aide said Democrats would also seek to highlight Republicans’ opposition to “funding and support for students.”
In his opening remarks, Scott pointed to Tennessee and South Carolina, where K-12 schools can get funding taken away based on their curriculum. He also discusses Republican opposition to President Biden’s student loan debt relief.
While hitting at Republicans, Scott also highlighted the goals of committee Democrats, including investing in school infrastructure and educational equity, making higher education more affordable and funding job training and apprenticeship programs.
“These legislative priorities are rooted in evidence and research and will take into account the real concerns facing students, parents, educators, and communities,” Scott’s remarks conclude. “I hope my colleagues on the Committee will stop putting politics over people—and put people over politics—and join Democrats in addressing the most pressing issues facing our nation’s students.”
— Updated at 6:27 p.m.