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Kari Lake wants Trump-inspired 'patriotic' curriculum taught to Arizona schoolchildren

Republican candidate for governor would adopt instruction created by Christian college closely tied to GOP politicians.

PHOENIX — The Donald Trump-endorsed nominee for Arizona governor wants the state's schoolchildren to learn from a curriculum inspired in part by Trump. 

"We want a curriculum that makes sense. We want a curriculum that sets our kids up for success," Republican Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor, said at an event last May at the state Capitol. "I believe in the Hillsdale College curriculum."

Lake favors a history and civics curriculum developed by Hillsdale College, a private Christian school in Michigan that's influential in right-wing circles.

Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn was the chairman of former President Trump's short-lived 1776 Commission, created to support what Trump called "patriotic education." 

A Hillsdale dean was the commission's executive director.

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"Patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country," Trump said at the commission's unveiling in September 2020, two months before his re-election defeat. 

A top Hillsdale College administrator said the curriculum "was inspired by the (Trump) commission's call for a restoration of American education grounded on a history that is 'accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling.'" 

The commission, as well as Hillsdale's "1776 Curriculum," were in part a response to the "1619 Project," a New York Times Magazine series that explored American history through the lens of slavery and racism. 

The larger national context was a push by public schools to reflect the growing diversity of their student bodies with "diversity, inclusion and equity" training. Many parents viewed the training and related curriculum as targeting white students.

In response to a question from 12News about the 1776 Curriculum, a Lake spokesman said she had "looked through" it:  

"Kari looked through the Hillsdale 1776 curriculum and discussed it with educators before selecting it as an alternative to the biased, CRT-based indoctrination permeating current textbooks and lesson plans." 

"CRT" is the acronym for a college-level area of study known as critical race theory. It has also become the right's shorthand for what's being taught in public schools.

Lake would also try to ban diversity, equity and inclusion training in schools, according to her campaign website.

"It's a twisted view of what happens in public school," said Darcie Cimarusti, a New Jersey school board member and communications director for the non-profit Network for Public Education, an advocacy group for public schools.

"Schools are trying to teach students to better understand their world, the culture they live in. And (opponents) are saying, 'No.'"

Governor Has Clout in K-12 Schools

Arizona's governor has a platform and the authority to make a big impact on K-12 schooling.

Doug Ducey came into office in 2015 as a pro-school choice conservative governor. He'll leave office next January having signed into law the largest school voucher expansion in the country. 

Ducey also led a statewide initiative to boost school funding. It took a historic teacher strike to force Ducey to come up with a plan to boost teacher pay. 

The governor's clout extends to the oversight body for public schools, the 11-member State Board of Education. The governor appoints 10 of the 11 members.

RELATED: Arizona State Superintendent asks Gov. Ducey to resolve education spending cap

Diane Douglas Backed Curriculum

Lake wouldn't be the first Republican statewide official to try to adopt a Hillsdale curriculum.

In 2018, as she was leaving office, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas proposed adopting an earlier version of the curriculum. The Board of Education, on which Douglas had a seat, ignored the proposal.

The board was embroiled at the time in another Douglas-generated controversy: her attempt to weaken K-12 teaching on evolution. Douglas failed at that, as well.

Connected to GOP Governors

Hillsdale officials have positioned their school as fighting "the Left's hijacking" of education.

One theme in the curriculum is blaming "progressives" for "the greatest deviations from the original Constitution": 

"Teachers are instructed that ... young American citizens must understand why and how the government of the country they now live in was changed from what their country's founders originally intended." 

Arnn, the Hillsdale College president, has played an influential role in shaping education policy in Tennessee and Florida. 

He has claimed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is "one of the most important people living." 

In Tennessee, Arnn has partnered with Gov. Bill Lee to open dozens of charter schools in the state. But that partnership has endured some recent embarrassments. 

RELATED: 'We need to create safe environments': As kids return to classrooms, safety is top priority for Mesa school officials

'Dumbest Parts of Colleges'

Video obtained by WTVF-TV in Nashville shows Arnn insulting public schools in language that echoes claims by right-wingers.

"The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country," Arnn said at a closed-door event with Tennessee's governor. 

"They're messing with people's children, and they feel entitled to do anything to them."

In a newspaper op-ed published after an uproar over his comments, Arnn defended his criticism. He said he didn't use the word "dumb" in the way many other people use it.

"The bureaucrats and their leftist activists work to use Hillsdale's curriculum — and by extension, our children's education options — to fight their partisan ideological battles," Arnn wrote.

Lake's K-12 Agenda

Also on Lake's K-12 policy agenda:

  • School choice: Parents could send their children to any school for any purpose -- advanced classes at one school, the varsity football team at another.
  • Technical & trades: Lake would give students more options to attend technical or trade schools as soon as their sophomore year in high school.

Hobbs' K-12 Agenda

The Democratic nominee for governor, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, puts education at the top of a long to-do list. 

"What I'm hearing most from people is they want us to fund our public schools," Hobbs said at her primary night victory party.

Here are three bullet points from Hobbs' K-12 agenda:

Charter school accountability: Hobbs wants to ensure taxpayer dollars are going to classrooms, not to private companies that run the schools.

Voucher rollback: Hobbs would try to reverse the Legislature's expansion of school vouchers to all students. The vouchers provide up to $7,000 for private or parochial school tuition. 

Opponents of the voucher expansion face a late September deadline to gather enough signatures to put the expansion on hold until Arizona voters have their say on it at the ballot box in 2024.

Jobs pipeline: Hobbs would focus on easing the worker shortage in health care fields by boosting the number of students.

RELATED: VERIFY: Does Kari Lake want to legalize rocket launchers?

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