RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As the state Senate nears a vote this week on a bill dealing with critical race theory in classrooms, Democrats are decrying a lack of transparency in the production of a report by Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) that accused some teachers of indoctrinating students.
Robinson released the report Tuesday, months after he formed a task force to look into the issue. That task force included some elected and appointed state officials, among other people, but never met publicly.
Earlier this month, CBS 17 requested records from the lieutenant governor’s office, including notices of meetings, documents from those meetings and expenses incurred by the task force.
Brian LiVecchi, general counsel for Robinson, wrote in reply, “I don’t really have any ‘records’ to provide.”
“The ‘FACTS Task Force’ is a more or less informal group of volunteer education professionals/stakeholders who assisted staff with analyzing submissions the office received regarding education issues. It is not a ‘public body’ and, accordingly, does not publish notices of its meetings or maintain minutes of them,” he said. “There is no chairperson, and the gatherings are not formal affairs governed by Robert’s Rules or any other type of procedure. There are no votes, and the ‘Task Force’ does not, generally, speak with a corporate voice determined by majority rule.”
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) questioned Robinson about the transparency of the task force and to what extent they verified claims submitted to them regarding indoctrination in classrooms.
“A public body means you have to provide 48-hour notice before the body, the task force convenes, as well as other transparency requirements that are attached to that,” he said.
Last month, the lieutenant governor’s office did provide copies of more than 500 submissions to the task force.
“That amount of false reports… if somebody wants to waste their time trying to gum up our work because we’re trying to do the right thing, let them have at it,” Robinson said.
Some people complained about “biased” lesson plans and using books and other learning materials they thought were inappropriate for their child, including some dealing with sexuality and white privilege.
Other people submitted comments blasting Robinson for forming the task force in the first place, calling it a “fishing expedition” and a “waste of taxpayer money.”
In response to questions about that, Robinson said, “We have a very tiny staff, and this was a very, very heavy lift for us. So, I think the tax dollar question, I hate to say it, but I think it’s kind of irrelevant.”
“I don’t have a number, but it’s insignificant compared to what we have uncovered here,” he said.
The report came as Republicans in the state Senate prepare to vote on a bill this week that would not ban critical race theory in classrooms but would bar schools from promoting 13 concepts.
Among those concepts: one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive; and the United States government should be violently overthrown.
Rep. James Gailliard (D-Nash) voted against a separate bill that passed the House earlier this year.
“We’re in a dangerous place in our state,” he said. “Classrooms should be marketplaces of ideas. This is where our young people should be learning as much as they can so they won’t be indoctrinated.”
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger has been one of the most vocal critics in the legislature of critical race theory and has pushed for the bill to pass.
“We have seen all over the state of North Carolina, parents who are not political volunteers, not paid to do so, showing up to school board meetings with real concerns,” he said.