Credit: Houston Public Media

Staci Childs, a Democratic member of the Texas State Board of Education, is in the spotlight for her strong opposition against PragerU, a conservative media company that has set its sights on infiltrating the state’s classrooms with its controversial curriculum that has been making major waves on social media.

PragerU, short for Prager University, is no stranger to controversy. Founded by radio host Dennis Prager, the organization has drawn criticism for its unaccredited, nonacademic approach to education, which is heavily infused with hyper-conservative social and political viewpoints. These viewpoints, many argue, are ahistorical and anti-scientific.

What happened ?

The battle began when PragerU secured approval from the Florida Department of Education to include its materials in classrooms, causing concern among parents and educators who feared the potential influence of PragerU’s ideological content. The organization quickly sought to expand its reach beyond Florida, and its efforts landed in Texas.

In a video released by PragerU in August, CEO Marissa Streit and Julie Pickren, a Houston-area Republican on the State Board of Education, expressed their eagerness to introduce PragerU’s curriculum to Texas students. However, Childs and her fellow Democratic board members swiftly responded, making it clear that PragerU had not received approval for use in Texas public schools.

Democratic SBOE Staci Childs talks at press conference. Credit: Staci Childs Twitter

Childs, a passionate advocate for quality education and the preservation of academic standards, has been vocal about her opposition to PragerU’s content. She said that any vendors who show interest in working with the state’s comptroller the company has to be “approved and vetted.” An account must be created and pay a $70 fee. The Texas Comptroller’s Office registered PragerU as a vendor, but the board must approve before their content can be used in schools.

“There is a high-quality factor we are looking for. We are looking for whether or not these materials are suitable, Childs said. “PragerU is not absolved from going through this process that other vendors go through and their if you ask me, they don’t meet the expectations.”

She said she is most concerned about the misleading narratives about Black history and the downplaying of the horrors of slavery.

“Our Black and Brown youth are already dealing with a lot in schools and when it comes to our stories, they need to hear the truth,” Child said. “This won’t happen under my watch.”

PragerU strikes back

The situation took a personal turn when CJ Pearson, one of PragerU’s hosts, launched an attack on Childs via Twitter, accusing her of hypocrisy for deeming PragerU’s materials “inappropriate.” Not only is Childs an education advocate, but she also taps into her gift as a creative showcasing her music interests on social media. Some songs mentioned where not age appropriate for children, which became the target for Pearson who said “Texans deserve to know who’s representing them on the State Board of Education. She should resign.

PragerU has moved strategically to pitching this idea to conservatives in decision making positions. It has expanded its reach to not only Florida but New Hampshire as well. The New Hampshire Board of Education voted unanimously for PragerU’s online “Cash Course,” which would allow students to earn graduation credit towards the state’s financial literacy education requirement.

The official PragueU announcement video has not been taken down.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...