Update: Michele Fiore sponsored a bill for multicultural education.
Millions of viewers watched Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore blast the notion of Critical Race Theory by shooting a CRT labeled beer bottle in her explosive kickoff commercial upon entering the race for Nevada Governor. She also included the promise to ban the practice as part of her opening remarks during the first 2022 gubernatorial debate.
The seemingly consistent messaging coming from her also includes a Twitter profile proudly displaying Fiore’s intent to “Ban Critical Race Theory,” and an interview where she attempts to define CRT. Within a general focus on education, the longtime performer of political burlesque has specifically made a formerly arcane academic idea one of the main focuses of her run for the We Matter State’s highest office.
By virulently pontificating against the concept of CRT, while espousing the rote talking points conservatives use to vilify the theory in the minds of voters, Michele Fiore positioned herself to reap the benefits of a campaign topic that has brought success to Republicans in elections across the nation.
However when given the opportunity to do so, the former state assemblywoman turned municipal office holder cast multiple votes that didn’t match up with her expressed desire of freeing schools, and society at large, from the teachings of Critical Race Theory.
On June 16th, 2021 at a regularly scheduled Las Vegas City Council meeting, agenda item 40 was heard, followed shortly after by agenda item 41. The companion bills, tucked into the public hearing under the dystopian title of Youth Development and Social Innovation-Discussion, were intended to facilitate the creation of the city of Las Vegas’ own public charter school. Named CLV Strong Start Academy Elementary School, the city had plans to start with grades K-2, with the eventual possibility of expanding up to the fifth grade. While a non profit organization would run the day to day activities, initial funding would come from taxpayer funds and public dollars would continue flowing to the school from the city for at least the first four years of its existence.
A vote for item 40 would see the city approve the bylaws of a new non-profit entity allowing it to move forward toward an eventual goal of state board certification, while item 41 would be for the appointment of the new non-profit school’s board members. Each part passed easily, with Councilwoman Fiore making the initial motion on both bills to end debate and bring them to their respective votes. Although choosing not to question any aspect of the legislation before her, immediately prior to offering her initial motion Fiore spoke on the record. Gushing with praise she extolled, “I’ve seen what you guys have done, and it’s really incredible and I support you.”
Included among the seven board members Fiore made the motion to appoint and then voted to approve was Sylvia Lazos. Lazos, who has a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School as well as a B.A. and M.A. from St. Mary’s University is currently a professor of law at UNLV. One of her areas of expertise, according to William S. Boyd School of Law’s website is Critical Race Theory. Furthermore at the turn of century and for several years into the new millennium Lazos, who also went by the name Lazos-Vargas at that juncture of her career, published a significant amount of academic work covering the field of CRT, including how it related to education.
While originally a field meant to be taught solely in colleges and universities, CRT is being increasingly brought into the culture wars afflicting public school boards tasked with overseeing the learning environments of children ranging from those in Kindergarten through the 12th grade. Speaking for the Clark County School District which encompasses Las Vegas Linda Cavazos, at the time the CCSD Board of Trustees’ President had this to say, “Critical race theory is not being taught in the Clark County School District, our superintendent has stated that at a public meeting; I have stated that.”
Yet despite Fiore’s own supposed derision toward CRT, in taking on a leading role in pushing through the creation of Las Vegas’ own publicly funded elementary school and with it the placing of a renown and lauded CRT scholar in a seat of influence over it, questions are being asked as to how and why Fiore came to this decision about Lazos placement in such a sensitive position. This is an especially glaring vote by Fiore since Lazos' own writings show her as a proponent of seeing Critical Race Theory taught in elementary school, papers which have been widely disseminated across the internet. In fact, just pages after including a section suggesting K-12 education in the United States needed to undergo “Radical Remedies,” Lazos clearly indicated what she had in mind for a tenure such as one she’s just received on the school’s board writing, “classrooms should be the locus of opportunities for learning how to bridge the racial, cultural, and class divides.” Those passages come directly from a tome Lazos authored titled Critical Race Theory in Education: Theory, Praxis, and Recommendations.
What this revelation means for the school’s state approval process is unknown. However, lurking in the background is the eventual possibility of litigation, with at least one privately funded county based charter school, Democracy Prep, being sued after accusations of teaching CRT to its students. That allegation resulted in a federal lawsuit being filed against it during the summer of 2021.