Governor Ducey’s $65 Million for Learning Programs Funds Social-Emotional Learning

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By Corinne Murdock

Some of Governor Doug Ducey’s $65 million for learning programs announced Tuesday will fund a controversial educational method: $1.6 million for social-emotional learning (SEL). SEL grapples with emotionally-charged social issues, such as murder or the history of slavery, in order to build social and self-awareness, as well as relational skills. It serves as a vessel for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Specifically, the $1.6 million investment comes from $20.1 million in American Rescue Plan dollars.

Ducey’s SEL funds will go to Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship, a spawn of DC Public Schools funded initially by the DC Public Education Fund (DCPEF). The fellowship only recruits male, minority high school graduates. These young men give literacy support to pre-K students for a year in a residency-style program. One of the main goals for this fellowship is “diversifying the teacher pipeline.” This fellowship has some familiar faces for Arizonans – one of DCPEF’s current board members is Everfi Co-Founder and CEO, Tom Davidson.

Everfi has come under fire by Arizonan parents due to its curriculum, which is marketed as a free extracurricular resource, and after it was discovered that Everfi was bribing teachers with $15 Amazon gift cards for referrals to other educators. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one of Everfi’s top donors.

Everfi’s curriculum promotes diversity initiatives: in one survey, Everi asked students private questions about their home life and encouraged them to think critically about their privilege. The company also provides an “Anti-Racism Extension Guide” for teachers, which promotes a book teaching tenets of critical race theory, called “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors,” and links to the New York Times’ 1619 Project.

Last September, Everfi committed $100 million over the next three years to expanding its curriculum on social injustice and economic disparities. Two main topics that Everfi will develop are exclusively on DEI and SEL.

Arizona is not listed as one of Leading Men Fellowship’s locations as of press time. The fellowship lists activity in the Metro DC area; Central Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Kansas City, Missouri; Massachusetts; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ducey classified the $65 million as program funding for K-12 literacy, adult education, and teacher professional development.

“We’re making targeted investments to connect adult students with jobs, strengthen literacy education in K-12 schools, enhance professional development for teachers, help students learn money management, expand access to high quality education, and much more,” said Ducey. “Students continue to excel in and out of the classroom as they recover from the effects of the pandemic and distance learning, and we will continue to put our resources toward helping them succeed.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.