Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch published a video Monday with what she said was clear evidence that Wisconsin education officials are pushing critical race theory for students in grades as young as kindergarten.
Right there, on the agenda for an education conference in the state, was a session called “CRT: How to build relationships, empower student voice and respect cultural perspectives.”
But the problem is that CRT doesn’t stand for “critical race theory,” according to conference organizers.
Critical race theory is an academic framework, taught in universities, that examines how racism is embedded in American institutions and society. But for Republicans, it has become a catch-all for teaching anything about race and racism in schools ― something that they oppose.
Kleefisch, who served as Wisconsin lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2019, was wearing a “Moms for Liberty” T-shirt in the video she posted to Twitter Monday. She showed materials mentioning the CRT training offered at a statewide conference for teachers.
Kleefisch said the session was to “teach your kids’ teachers about critical race theory, so they can teach it to your kids.”
“The saddest part of this is it’s for grade levels kindergarten through 12. It says right here. Experience level: novice,” Kleefisch added. “Why do Democrats keep lying to us and telling us that CRT is not being taught in our schools?”
She singled out Wisconsin Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson for saying that there are “zero public schools in the state” teaching critical race theory and promising to give $100 to the first person who can prove otherwise.
But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel talked to conference organizers, who said that CRT stood for “culturally responsive teaching.” Indeed, in the description that Kleefisch herself showed on screen, it says “culturally responsive classroom” and “culturally responsive activities.” It never says “critical race theory.”
“Session 84 is NOT about Critical Race Theory it is about Culturally Responsive Teaching,” Jim Lynch, executive director of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, told the Journal Sentinel. “We did update the online schedule so that we do not refer to the session as CRT without spelling out Culturally Responsive Teaching.”
Kleefisch’s campaign refused to back down in a statement to the paper, claiming that the organizers “changed the description to avoid scrutiny” only after she released her video.
Larson mocked Kleefisch for getting CRT wrong.
“Wait until she finds out about the Calculus Readiness Test,” Larson wrote on Facebook Monday evening. “Or Community Resource Teams. Or she discovers the Crunchy Red Tacos at Taco Bell. Extra dangerous if you put the Fire sauce on them.”
Kleefisch is the highest-profile Republican candidate running to unseat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In October, former President Donald Trump said he’d like to see former Rep. Sean Duffy (R) run, saying he’d be “virtually unbeatable.” Duffy has so far not announced a candidacy.
Critical race theory has jumped to the front of campaigns since Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race in Virginia last month. While Youngkin tried to pitch himself as moderate, he also leaned into the GOP’s culture wars, championing conservative parental grievances around critical race theory, transgender equality and COVID-19 precautions.