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Groups debate racism training for teachers

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    OMAHA, Nebraska (KETV) —
There were dozens of people who took the microphone in front of the Learning Community on Thursday night before they decided whether or not to approve a partnership with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

It all started in 2020.

The Buffett Early Childhood Institute sent a letter to teachers of children birth through third grade in Douglas and Sarpy counties asking what trainings they’d like for professional development.

“Believe it or not, anti-racism and equity were not listed. They were write-ins,” said Dr. Lisa Roy, with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Because more than half asked for diversity training, the institute offered two optional webinars: “What is anti-racist education?” and “Racial socialization as resistance to racism.”

“Because of a lot of things that we were happening, and young children talking to teachers about what was going on in the media, and conversation happening at home teachers really felt at a loss,” Roy said.

Other webinars offered training about technology in the early years and digital storytelling.

But Buffett said a Learning Community board member raised concerns about critical race theory being taught to young children, something the institute said it does not do.

“Critical race theory is a theory. We are practitioners that focus on how teachers can engage with students,” Roy said.

Still, taxpayer watchdog groups are pushing the learning community to not approve a multi-million-dollar contract with Buffett over its racial training offered to teachers.

“They’re unfortunately propagandizing our children at an early age to evaluate people themselves and their families based on skin color and not merit,” said Doug Kagan, with Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom.

Kagan believes this training may still lead to some teachers promoting critical race theory in their classrooms.

“We believe this is a time to teach curriculum to our younger generations to help bring people together and unite people to help build our country and improve it,” Kagan said.

Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. Nebraska Freedom Coalition and Nebraskans Against Government Overreach plan to be at the Learning Community meeting Thursday night to oppose the use of critical race theory in early education, training or otherwise.

Allie French, with Nebraskans Against Government Overreach spoke about her opposition on Thursday night. “We’re not asking people to get rid of it, we’re not asking people to stop talking about it, we’re not asking for people to stop sharing messages that are important to them, but we do believe there is a place for it. And that’s called college,” said French.

But an OPS teacher spoke about why she supported the contract.

“I feel privileged to get those questions and to have those opportunities to have those real and genuine and uncomfortable interactions with them because young curious minds, that means a lot to them,” said teacher Meredith Starr.

An NFC spokesperson said any education on race and equity should come from parents anyways.

The Learning Community board voted and approved extending that partnership with Buffett Institute late Thursday night.

The Learning Community allocates tax dollars to contractors for education and development.

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