Blue State School Districts Shelled Out Thousands for Equity, Racial Literacy Trainings

by Reagan Reese and Megan Brock


Pennsylvania school districts are paying thousands in membership dues to the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (GSE), which offers administrators trainings on identifying “microaggressions” and growing “racial literacy,” according to documents obtained through a public records request by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Center for School Study Councils (CSSC), a branch of the University of Pennsylvania’s GSE, partners with nearly 90 school districts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey to provide monthly professional development trainings and materials to administrators, which has included sessions on “racial literacy” and “equity agency,” according to documents obtained through a public records request by the DCNF. Two school systems paid thousands to the CSSC in membership dues for its services, which includes access to such offered workshops as well as meetings with other superintendents and the University of Pennsylvania’s GSE staff.

On April 5, 2021, the CSSC notified its five “study councils,” which are made up of 87 superintendents from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, that it would be offering a training titled the “Leadership for Equity Series: Actualizing Equity Systemically and Systematically” to teach administrators “to be equity literate” and serve as “lead equity advocates,” according to documents obtained by the DCNF.

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22, a regional educational service agency that serves more than 96,000 public and private school students, paid the CSSC $4,300 in dues for a membership spanning from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, invoices to Dr. Mark Hoffman, the executive director of the governing board for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, showed.

From July 1, 2022 to July 11, 2022, Haverford Township School District paid the “Suburban School Study Council,” a training group within CSSC, $2,500 in dues, according to school board documents. The district also paid an additional $4,400 to the trustees at the University of Pennsylvania.

As a part of the program and in addition to the training sessions, administrators can earn “ACT 45 credits,” a professional development training credit needed every five years for faculty to continue working in education, according to the CSSC website.

On May 14, 2021, Tim Foxx, the director of CSSC, notified superintendents that the program’s tuition was being raised $100, a letter showed. Though it is unclear what participating school districts are charged to be members, dues are required from administrators or districts participating in the program in order to have access to such training materials, according to Foxx’s letter.

As a part of the leadership series, a training taught administrators to “identify microaggressions in real time” and to stand up for others when a “microaggression” is spotted. Superintendents were also taught to assess their own and others’ “growth in relation to anti-racist practice,” the training showed.

“We’ll explore how to create the conditions to build your own and others’ equity agency and racial literacy in ongoing flux,” the training stated.

In the leadership series, superintendents were taught “five reflective scans” to identify their own invisible logic, including an “emotional labor scan,” a “power and norms scan,” an “invisible logic scan,” a “deflection scan” and a “societal trope scan,” the training showed. The “deflection scan” asked administrators to recognize if they feel “overly entitled to personal comfort in classroom discourse.”

“Am I sufficiently aware of societal tropes (for example, the angry black woman)?” the training described an example of a societal trope to be. “Am I noticing how these stereotypes make people feel frustrated and dehumanized in real time? How am I making sense of this? How am I showing up to this?”

Towards the end of the second session in the leadership series, superintendents were asked to draft their “leader equity vision,” the training slides showed.

On April 29, 2021, the CSSC hosted a second part to its leadership series for superintendents that included dissecting “specific barriers and challenges to enacting pedagogical equity and efficacy,” the training showed. The second session taught the administrators to recognize “signs of racial trauma” within students and staff.

The CSSC held a third session in its leadership series on May 12, 2021, that taught administrators how to “apply an equity lens,” the training stated. During the session, superintendents critically analyzed “inequity” and how they have addressed “racial inequity” within their school system throughout the year.

A fourth leadership training session on May 20, 2021, expanded on how to “apply an equity lens” and “consider climate” when making decisions, the documents showed.

Haverford Township School District suggested that the DCNF file a public records request and the Bucks County Intermediate Unit did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. CSSC declined to comment.

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Reagan Reese and Megan Brock are reporters at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Teacher and Students in a Classroom” by Max Fischer.



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