Politifact's fact-check of Va Lt. Gov. appears to have missed something (Update)

AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File

Yesterday Politifact published a fact check of Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, specifically some comments she made about the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia schools. In an interview on Fox News last week, Earle-Sears said, “We know last year the Loudoun County School Board spent about $300,000 – that’s real money, that’s going-to-jail money – to bring CRT in some form or fashion to the school system.” Here’s the clip.

Politifact says there’s no evidence this amount was spent on CRT though it acknowledges about $34,000 was spent on “equity training” in 2020.

We asked Earle-Sears’ office three times for the source of her claim about Loudoun’s $300,000 investment in critical race theory and did not get a reply. It seems apparent, however, that she greatly overstated the $34,167 cost of seminars about critical race theory and equity training the Loudoun school system held for top officials in late spring, 2020…

Wayde Byard, said the seminar was held to familiarize senior school officials with critical race theory. “It’s an academic construct that’s been around 45 years,” he said.

We asked Byard if the county has spent funds on critical race theory beyond the $34,167 for the seminars. “No, that’s about it,” he said…

It appears that she has greatly overstated the cost of the seminars.

A school spokesman said the county has not spent money on CRT beyond the $34,167 for the seminars. The superintendent says the theory is not taught in Loudoun.

We rate Earle-Sears’ statement Mostly False.

First, it’s interesting that Wayde Byard, a spokesman for the school, admitted the money was spent to “familiarize” people with CRT. He plays it off as if this is no big deal even as most of the media has denied repeatedly that CRT was encroaching on schools. In any case, as Twitchy pointed out, Daily Caller reporter Chrissy Clark presented evidence that Loudoun County spent quite a bit more than $34,000.

That’s a bit hard to read, but what it shows is that between Sep. 2018 and June 2020, the school system made seven payments to the Equity Collaborative LLC. The last one of those was for $34,167, the exact amount cited by Politifact. But that wasn’t even the largest payment that year. In April of 2020, they paid the group, $68,333. And back in June of 2019 they apparently paid them $242,000 for something.

Adding all of this up, it comes to well over $300,000, although it’s fair to say that amount covers primarily 2019 and 2020. So if this is accurate then Winsome Earle-Sears was correct about the amount of spending but slightly off on the timeline. Still, Politifact might need to revise this fact check to show that her statement was mostly correct rather than mostly false.

Update: It turns out Marc Thiessen wrote about this spending by Loudoun County last November.

Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools, which were ground zero in the debate over the role of parents in their kids’ education, paid $314,000 for critical race theory coaching for its teachers from the Equity Collaborative — a consulting firm that turns critical race theory into practices for “building more equitable learning environments.” In its presentation “Introduction to Critical Race Theory” the Equity Collaborative instructs teachers that racism is “an inherent part of American civilization” and attacks “ideas of colorblindness, the neutrality of the law, incremental change, and equal opportunity for all” for maintaining “whites’ power and strongholds within society.” It also questions “the idea of meritocracy” which “allows the empowered … to feel ‘good’ and have a clear conscience” and concludes with a breakout session for teachers to discuss “How might you use CRT to identify and address systemic oppression in your school, district or organization?”

If you follow that top link you’ll see that Parents Defending Education actually split the district’s spending into two categories, $34,000 for Equity Collaborative training including CRT and another $314,000 for EQ “training.” Maybe this is the gimmick that Politifact is relying on. Only $34,000 was explicitly about CRT while the rest was merely CRT adjacent.

I wrote about the Equity Collaborative here. They are the group that was showing teachers this video to explain racial privilege (and minority oppression).

As I pointed out at the time, it’s worrisome to think teachers who were shown this clip might adopt this view and pass it down to their students:

The race ends with the white male runner winning by riding on a moving conveyer belt while the white woman is still running and the two minority runners are literally in jail and dead.

…what happens if this viewpoint is embraced to the point that it is shown to kids in 3rd grade? How does that make the kids feel about school work? About academic achievement? About their own racial identity? This strikes me as not a good message to deliver to kids whether they are white or minorities.

It appears Politifact is playing a semantic game. If CRT only means the legal theory taught in law schools then all of the spending on this other material doesn’t count. But if CRT is taken a bit more broadly to mean concepts that arise from and are connected to CRT, such as Ibram Kendi-style anti-racism which he has said is based on CRT, then Winsome Sears was mostly right.