Public Schools Have Spent $21M on Diversity Inclusion Programs Since George Floyd's Death

Since the spring of 2020, more than $20 million has been spent on the acquisition of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs for America's public schools, one educational nonprofit says.

"It's bigger than they can even show—all the different firms will make your head spin." That's how one parent well versed in the world of DEI described the industry, which is full of consultants and contractors.

It's an endeavor—and now a multimillion-dollar business—that, simply put, sets out to reform how teachers instruct students in the ways they think about, learn and view the broad topic of fairness and social justice.

The current total amount spent on programs under the DEI umbrella is $21,812,007, according to Parents Defending Education. The nonprofit, which describes itself as "a national grassroots organization working to reclaim schools from activists imposing harmful agendas," began keeping track when it launched in spring 2021.

"The amount of money put into social justice consulting since the tragedy of the George Floyd killing has just exploded," Asra Nomani, the vice president for strategy and investigations at Parents Defending Education, told Newsweek.

The nonprofit's mission is to fight what it sees as indoctrination in the classroom and to promote the restoration of a healthy, nonpolitical education for kids through network and coalition building, investigative reporting, litigation, and engagement on local, state and national policies, according to its website.

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The DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) industry aims to reform how teachers instruct students in the ways they think about, learn and view fairness and justice. Above, a classroom in New York in July 2021. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

"The consulting industry exploited George Floyd's death, and administrators and bureaucrats quickly agreed to some multimillion-dollar contracts at the time as a way of virtue signaling," Nomani said.

One of those agencies is Akoben LLC, which says it offers consulting, coaching services, speaking engagements and a variety of workshops meant to "stretch thinking, provoke reflection and stimulate action." Subjects taught include "restorative practices, trauma-informed care, cultural relevancy and agency and assets."

"No significant learning happens outside of a significant relationship—it requires a relationship between teachers and students, and the deeper that is, the more learning and more challenges we can confront," Malik Muhammad, CEO of Akoben, told Newsweek. The vast majority of Akoben's work, 95 percent, is with public schools.

Nomani noted that there was always a DEI industry in America, but she said it's now a "woke industrial complex with schools and government agencies now doling out millions of dollars to fly-by-night consultancy groups and Big Tech even as they try to come in to change the so-called cultures of schools."

"One thing they are not doing is teaching children reading, writing and arithmetic," she added.

The Parents Defending Education's Consultant Report Card says hundreds if not thousands of DEI consultants are operating in the U.S. The top 10 contractors identified in the report include Panorama Education, Pacific Educational Group and the National Equity Project.

"Every week, we get scores of reports from distressed parents, students, teachers, grandparents, principals—just about anybody and everybody touched by the divisive teachings that have sprung from the controversial ideology called critical race theory," says the organization's preface to its Consultant Report Card.

In Akoben's case, $833,605.50 has been spent by schools on its DEI curriculum, according to the report.

Muhammad sees it differently. His main concern, he said, is for the marginalized students that don't see themselves fitting into their community.

He cited students who don't "see themselves in the curriculum or mentioned in the student body."

"In all of domains, whether it's a white student chasing sexual identity issues or a poor student who comes from Somalia trying to understand what's going on—oftentimes if we don't find time to talk about the differences we often default to the majority," said Muhammad said. "When we find the opportunity to be more inclusive, those are the environments where [students] want to learn."

But when it comes to just how much is being spent on DEI in the public schools, Parents Defending Education's number is just one figure being bandied about. William Jacobson of the conservative blog Legal Insurrection wrote earlier this month that almost $25 billion has been spent on DEI.

"But I may be severely underestimating the cash flow to the education activist sector considering that almost $25 billion has been donated mostly to race-related activist groups and causes in the past two years," Jacobson wrote. He noted that he first saw the staggering number in a piece by Ari Kaufman in The New York Times.

Regardless of the exact figure, some parents and educators are now questioning the emphasis on DEI when schools lack resources in many educational areas.

Muhammad, who is also a parent and former teacher, said it's an honest question.

"Let's have a dialogue about what are the things and let's be good stewards of the money. Where is the money being spent and how we can use it in the most productive way?" he said.

"What I struggle with is that some folks believe that the silencing of voices is going to help, and I think it does the opposite," he added. "If years ago we had spent any time on DEI and not all on math, English and social studies, how much of the problems that we're currently facing around inequity could have already been solved?"

Still, others question exactly what teaching DEI consists of, why it seems so pronounced now, and why schools are spending so much on it when public education is in dire need of many educational tools.

"If DEI spending is important, where is the scholarship around it? It has been elevated to such a high priority, but as a result something has to be displaced," noted Ashley Jacobs, a parent concerned about DEI incorporation into the classroom. "So it would seem that the opportunity cost must be quantified, not just [the money]."

She continued, "There are only so many hours in the day. Kids aren't progressing, mental health is a huge issue. We know that not all teachers think this is a productive use of time and resources."