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Friday, October 29, 2021

Two Ohio State Board of Education Members Forced to Resign Because They Weren't Racist Enough

Posted By on Fri, Oct 29, 2021 at 12:10 PM

Board President Laura Kohler - OHIO DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
  • Ohio Department of Education
  • Board President Laura Kohler

Two members of the Ohio State Board of Education have resigned after they voted not to rescind a symbolic anti-racist resolution passed after the murder of George Floyd last year. 

The members, Board President Laura Kohler and Eric Poklar, resigned Friday morning. It was clear that the Ohio Senate would not re-appoint them due to their votes earlier this month. In Kohler's case, Gov. Mike DeWine requested the resignation personally.

There are 19 members of the state Board of Education. Eleven are elected and eight are appointed by the Governor. Last month, state lawmakers introduced a bill to eliminate the appointed members so as to improve accountability, they argued.

This was understood to be in response to the votes on rescinding Resolution 20, the anti-racist resolution passed in the weeks following George Floyd's murder.

The message contained in that resolution was hardly controversial. "As our nation grapples with the hard truths of racism and inequality, we are listening with broken hearts and engaging with determined spirits," the resolution read. (Kohler was one of its authors.) It acknowledged that racism exists—a tough pill to swallow for many Ohio Republicans—that racial disparities in student achievement persist to this day and that progress to mitigate those disparities has been uneven. Hatred and bigotry don't belong in Ohio schools, it said. 

This wouldn't do for the current Board of Education. They voted 10-7 earlier this month to rescind it and replace it with a more neutral, colorblind resolution championing excellence for all. Kohler and Poklar voted no. reported on Poklar's resignation letter, which made no mention of the Resolution 20 controversy, but followed closely on the heels of Kohler's announced resignation.

"I salute those I have worked with and wish only the best to those who will serve in the future," he wrote. "Quite simply, my time on the board has ended and I am ready to hand off my responsibilities to whomever comes next."

NBC News interviewed Kohler, who is a Republican. She said she was heartbroken that the state Board of Education, and local school boards, had become so mired in politics.

"It’s not political in the sense of Democrat vs. Republican," she said. "It’s more a sense I think of conservative Republicans not being happy with me as a moderate."

The resignations arrive less than a week before the Nov. 2 election, in which school boards will elect new members statewide. Far-right groups have endorsed slates of candidates who have made opposition to Critical Race Theory—which includes, by their definition, the acknowledgement of racism as a feature of U.S. history—central components of their campaigns.

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