Democrats and progressive groups are rallying opposition Thursday morning to a controversial proposal that’s slated to come up for a vote before New Hampshire’s State Board of Education.
Frank Edelblut, the state’s education commissioner, has advised the board to approve an application from a conservative nonprofit known as PragerU, so high schoolers can receive academic credit if they choose to complete a free video-based financial literacy course on the group’s website.
Read the whole story about what’s happening, but if you’re short on time, here are five key points to understand the controversy:
- PragerU isn’t a university. It’s an online video platform featuring mainly right-wing commentary, and persuasion is a core part of its mission. The platform launched PragerU Kids, with “edutainment” and lesson plans, to push back against so-called “woke agendas” that it says are “infiltrating classrooms, culture, and social media.”
- Florida just caught flak over PragerU. That state’s education department approved PragerU content on a broad range of topics (not just financial literacy) for optional use in the classroom. Critics contend the lessons are unreliable and send problematic messages about race, gender, and more. Outrage over the way PragerU covers slavery has been particularly fierce: One cartoon video depicts abolitionist Frederick Douglass telling a group of time-traveling kids that slavery was part of a “compromise” that America’s founding fathers made “to achieve something great.”
- Edelblut heard no concerns. A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Education told the Globe on Tuesday that Edelblut had not received any concerns about PragerU’s credibility. He said the application under consideration is about promoting financial literacy. That’s a goal that his critics say they share.
- The program would be optional. If the board approves PragerU’s application, it would allow (but not require) students to complete the free online financial literacy course for academic credit. Nonetheless, critics worry this approval would legitimize PragerU’s platform and open the door to “hyper-ideological” content into school curricula.
- The review process looks limited. The department invited eight educators to review PragerU’s application. The invitation, sent via email on July 3, gave four days to respond (including the holiday, during summer break). None responded. One said she never got the email. A two-member committee within the Department of Education completed the review, in a process that critics said lacks rigor.
There’s a political undertone to all of this. For one, PragerU is among the conservative advocacy groups pushing parents to pressure their local school boards on topics related to race and LGBTQ inclusion. For another, Edelblut has confirmed that he’s thinking about running for governor in 2024, as he did in 2016.
How he handles Thursday’s meeting and the approach he takes thereafter could say a lot about his priorities as he looks for a possible path to victory in the GOP primary.
This story first appeared in Globe NH | Morning Report, our free newsletter focused on the news you need to know about New Hampshire, including great coverage from the Boston Globe and links to interesting articles from other places. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.