Utah Gov. Spencer Cox oversaw implementation of DEI in education while taking $550 MILLION from Biden’s COVID funds

The DEI implemented in the state was “a result of cooperative efforts involving Governor Cox, appropriators in [the] State Legislature, and State educational agency leadership and staff."


Utah Governor Spencer Cox oversaw an initiative to push DEI into Utah schools. Under Biden’s Covid-era policies for school aid, Cox and those in the in the Utah education department pushed DEI far beyond what was required per the conditions of the funding.

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah secured funds for the state from the Trump administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. Later in 2021, the Biden administration made funds available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Utah received over $550,000,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief or “ESSER” funds from the ARP. 

The Biden administration’s ARP had a requirement for states to “maintain equity” in public schools, but Utah took the plan a step further, using the requirement as a jumping off point for broader DEI initiatives.  

Other states with Republican leadership, such as Florida, simply agreed to “comply with all requirements relating to Maintenance of Equity.” South Dakota said that to maintain educational equity in schools, its best strategy was “reopening schools for in-person instruction” in August 2020. The Utah plan, however, worked on by Cox’s office as well as the USBE, leaned into this requirement in the Utah ARP plan to push DEI initiatives through Utah’s public education system. While the ARP only had a few requirements, marking out what was necessary to “maintain equity” in schools, Utah went above and beyond this to push DEI.    

A letter of recognition thanking Utah’s efforts on equity from Biden’s Department of Education as of March 2023 explained that the USBE and Utah State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson’s efforts in implementing the ARP’s requirements on equity were “a result of cooperative efforts involving Governor Cox, appropriators in [the] State Legislature, and State educational agency leadership and staff.”    

In the plan, Governor Cox’s office and some nonprofits, along with left-wing groups like the Utah Pride Center and Encircle of Utah, set priorities in the state for “identifying the needs of underserved students,” that are low income, from ethnic groups that face disparities, “migratory students,” and others. One priority from the plan was “broader social and economic issues impacting students’ opportunity to learn” in Utah. The USBE then used this priorities list in order to gather data to identify needs for LGBTQ students as well as services for “migratory” students that did not have equity in schools.  

Wider DEI initiatives to improve educational outcomes in the 2021 ARP agreement also included: Social and emotional learning, quarterly equity meetings for educators to “improve equitable practices,” “equity labs” in order to have schools consider other more “equitable” practices, provide trainings that “encourage diversifying the workforce” of teachers, implementing the work of the USBE’s internal “Culturally Responsive and Equitable Workplace Steering Committee,” and multiple other DEI-related policies.   

An advisory board called the USBE Advisory Committee on Equity of Educational Services for Students (ACEESS) that had membership based on identity quotas was also used to set policy in the plan. There had to be two people representing each of the following racial groups: American Indian/Alaska Native, African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino American, and Pacific Islander American/Native Hawaiian. Additionally, there had to be ”five members with expertise or experience serving underrepresented students or students at risk for underachievement” on the board. This was set by USBE rule 5001, which also happens to be sunsetting on June 30, before the implementation of HB 261, the anti-DEI bill. 

In January, Governor Cox signed HB 261, or the Equal Opportunities Initiatives, that “prohibits discriminatory practices” in the public education system of Utah. The law states specifically that “engaging in or maintaining a policy, procedure, practice, program, office, initiative, or required training that… is referred to or named diversity, equity, and inclusion” is prohibited. This will go into effect July 1, 2024.     

However, the law has a carveout, saying, “‘Prohibited discriminatory practices’ do not include policies or procedures required by state or federal law.”     

This could indicate that the DEI and so-called “equity” policies agreed to by Utah could still be necessary in the public school system since Utah’s plan agreed to implement the DEI initiatives. Although DEI and ESSER funds are not mentioned explicitly in the USBE’s 2024 annual report that was issued just about a month prior to Cox signing HB 261, equity is still focused on, with one pillar of the Utah’s Standards for Educational Leadership being “Equity and Cultural Responsiveness.”    

The annual report also details a Utah state law where USBE classifies schools as needing “Targeted Support and Improvement” (TSI) or “Additional Targeted Support and Improvement” (ATSI) annually. This support is given based on certain groups of students performing worse than others based on race, ethnicity, and other factors.     

The annual USBE report is similar in language to USBE Rule R277-920, the “School Improvement - Implementation of the School Turnaround and Leadership Development Act.” Section five of the rule states that the Superintendent of Schools and USBE will identify schools that are in need of targeted assistance if “one or more student groups” with the ethnic and demographic categories listed in the report are underperforming. This classification then sets up these targeted schools for more federal funding.     

Utah’s board of education indicates that the next TSI and ATSI school determination for funding will be decided in 2025.   

TPM reached out to the governor’s office as well as the USBE and asked what DEI initiatives have ended in schools after Cox signed the anti-DEI bill and if the federal and state law carveout written into HB 261 will allow DEI-related policies to end.   

Dickson wrote back, “The Utah State Board of Education has been and continues to be fully committed to following state and federal law” and that the USBE “does not have a DEI office.” 

Sign in to comment


Powered by The Post Millennial CMS™ Comments

Join and support independent free thinkers!

We’re independent and can’t be cancelled. The establishment media is increasingly dedicated to divisive cancel culture, corporate wokeism, and political correctness, all while covering up corruption from the corridors of power. The need for fact-based journalism and thoughtful analysis has never been greater. When you support The Post Millennial, you support freedom of the press at a time when it's under direct attack. Join the ranks of independent, free thinkers by supporting us today for as little as $1.

Support The Post Millennial

Remind me next month

To find out what personal data we collect and how we use it, please visit our Privacy Policy

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
© 2024 The Post Millennial, Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell My Personal Information