Oregon Dept of Education raided student absentee program funding to pay Nikole Hannah-Jones $50,000
The Oregon Department of Education paid $50,000 to “1619 Project” founder Nikole Hannah-Jones for two virtual speeches — a payment that amounted to over $14,000 per hour.
The agency took the funds from an initiative meant to cut absenteeism among disadvantaged students.
Drawing funds from a program meant to address absenteeism among disadvantaged students, the Oregon Department of Education paid $50,000 to “1619 Project” founder Nikole Hannah-Jones for two virtual speeches.
Oregonians for Liberty in Education — a group that works to maintain parental control over schooling in Oregon — submitted a public records request for the amount that the Oregon Department of Education paid Hannah-Jones for speeches delivered on May 7 and May 13.
The event — “1619: Centering Black History and Black Futures in Oregon” — lasted for one hour and thirty minutes. The latter event — “A Discussion with Nikole Hannah-Jones on Centering Black Students and Families” — lasted for two hours.
Oregonians for Liberty in Education shared with Campus Reform the response from Oregon Department of Education Rules Coordinator Jeremy Wartz to its request. Wartz explained that the agency paid Hannah-Jones $25,000 for each event — an average wage of over $14,000 per hour of speaking time.
Wartz explained that staff members “authorized the expenses in line with the goals of the program and given the deep need for focal student groups, including Black students and their families, to feel a sense of connection at this time and to support educators in creating the conditions for culturally responsive pedagogy and practice.”
However, Wartz acknowledged that the funds paid to Nikole Hannah-Jones came from “Every Day Matters” — a program focused on addressing chronic absenteeism among disadvantaged children.
“Diverting funds from ‘Every Day Matters,’ ODE’s program to provide practical solutions to support showing up for school, is concerning,” notes Oregonians for Liberty in Education on its website. “The program provides toolkits for teachers and families so at-risk students can connect to services and learn executive function skills and healthy habits. Is ODE claiming kids will skip school until the New York Times is put in charge of curriculum?”
When asked why they drew funds specifically from Every Day Matters, Oregon Department of Education Communications Director Marc Siegel told Campus Reform that “centering the experience of Black students and families helps Black students feel valued, reflects Blacks contribution in American history which creates Black student’s sense of belonging in the classroom.” Accordingly, “feeling welcome in the classroom boosts attendance, which boosts academic performance.”
“At the center of Oregon’s work on equity is attention to what it means to belong and to create conditions in school engagement that support student belonging,” continued Siegel. “The experiences of Black students and families can and must be centered in our state, including the fullness of Black histories and Black futures.”
Siegel told Campus Reform that “385 educators” attended the May 7 event; for the programming on May 13, 225 people — 38 students and parents, as well as 187 educators — were in attendance.
Campus Reform reached out to Hannah-Jones to ask whether she was aware that the Oregon Department of Education drew her payment from Every Day Matters and whether she accordingly plans to return the funds.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft