House Republican launches caucus to combat DEI in education


EXCLUSIVE — Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) launched a new House caucus on Wednesday meant to combat diversity, equity, and inclusion ideology in education.

Owens, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, announced the “Merit Caucus” on Wednesday morning, the Washington Examiner learned exclusively, saying the Left has a “war on meritocracy” and is “lowering standards for students and teachers, discouraging achievement in the classroom, and eliminating academic excellence, all in the name of equity.”

“The Left’s relentless push for equity has come at the expense of excellence. Particularly in the classroom, we’ve seen how the soft bigotry of low expectations has placed race ahead of results at every level of our education system, eroding academic excellence in the name of equity,” Owens told the Washington Examiner. “The Merit Caucus is about rejecting the defeatist DEI mindset and once again championing the idea that with determination, effort, and merit, success, the very foundation of this great nation, can be achieved.”

The stated goal of the caucus is to protect challenging curriculums and to combat initiatives to lower grading standards to “equitable grading,” as well as to oppose policies allowing students to pass classes without genuine proficiency in their subject matters.

Members of the caucus will also be focused on fighting racial quota systems that replace entrance exams, such as the one put in place at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and the elimination of gifted and talented programs.

“Hard work, virtuosity, and excellence are universal traits that should be celebrated by the American education system,” said Nicole Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education. “We are deeply grateful that Rep. Owens has created the Merit Caucus, and look forward to working together to encourage students to strive for greatness.”

Owens’s office pointed to several examples of where DEI ideology has undercut merit and academic achievement, including a California initiative that sought to remove Algebra I as an option for eighth graders. Students who take Algebra I in eighth grade are on track to reach calculus by their senior year in high school, but the California Board of Education said allowing students to start Algebra I before ninth grade would not be equitable to students who are less gifted in mathematics. While it did not become the policy after pushback from parents, delaying Algebra I is still the recommended standard in California.

Seattle Public Schools shut down 11 schools dedicated to gifted students, instead sending the high achievers to schools where their talents are not being cultivated in order to address “historical inequity.” Many of the students at the gifted schools were learning well above their grade level, but the school district is forcing them to be held back.

Both Boston Public Schools and Portland Public Schools have pursued “equitable grading” policies.


In Boston, the school district spent $120,000 to revamp a grading system in order to emphasize “equity” and “mitigate institutional and personal bias.” Equitable grading policies have been widely criticized for lowering expectations of students, allowing them to reach achievement on paper, without having the capability to back it up.

Portland schools made the lowest grade achievable by a student 50%, including for students who are caught cheating. There are also no penalties for turning in assignments late or grading associated with class participation, attendance, and behavior, as well as no opportunities to obtain extra credit.

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