Republican-led states strike deals to show controversial conservative videos in schools

A privately funded effort to use disputed videos to teach conservative values in public schools is gaining traction, as Louisiana recently became the sixth state to endorse educational materials produced by Prager University.

PragerU is not a university but a nonprofit that produces short videos that push patriotism and conservative views of history, race, sex and gender, among other topics. Since last year, Florida, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Montana and Arizona have also announced partnerships with PragerU under which the nonprofit’s lessons become state-sanctioned, optional teaching materials for public schools. PragerU is neither paying nor receiving money from state partners, the nonprofit and state officials said.

The company and its supporters hail the moves as countering what they call left-leaning ideas in education. The half dozen partner states, said PragerU Chief Executive Marissa Streit, are just the beginning.

“We are pursuing every state in America,” she said.

Opponents say materials produced by PragerU amount to right-wing indoctrination.

“PragerU’s materials are hyperpartisan to the point of propaganda, inaccurate and incredibly substandard,” said Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association, a statewide teachers group. Arizona launched a PragerU partnership in January.

PragerU, founded in 2009 by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager and screenwriter Allen Estrin, began by producing videos aimed at college students and expanded its offerings in 2021 to reach younger students. Its website says its goal is to counter “the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education” by promoting “American values.” Two of the most-watched videos on the “PragerU Kids” YouTube channel are a lesson on “Student Loans 101″ and a cartoon-style retelling of the biblical story of David and Goliath that instructs children, “when God is on your side, you have nothing to fear.”


Some of PragerU’s videos have drawn criticism for factual inaccuracies, especially for a fictionalized animated clip that portrays famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass defending the nation’s Founding Fathers’ support of slavery.

Streit disputes that PragerU’s materials are inaccurate. She said the nonprofit is providing a patriotic viewpoint missing from public schools nationwide.

“American students are basically given a very one-sided perspective of American history and civics,” Streit said. “We don’t teach that America is perfect. But we teach that America is the greatest experiment on planet Earth.”

Supporters of the PragerU partnerships note that teachers are not being required to deploy the materials. They say the introduction of PragerU to public school classrooms is a much-needed course correction after years in which schools adopted implicitly or explicitly left-leaning lessons based on materials like the New York Times’s 1619 Project, which positions slavery at the heart of the nation’s founding.

In Oklahoma, which debuted a PragerU partnership in September, state Superintendent Ryan Walters framed the need for the nonprofit’s videos in overtly political terms. “There is no better example of a curriculum that rips the soul out of the liberal takeover of our schools than providing PragerU to every Oklahoma student,” Walters said in an emailed statement.

In Louisiana, which approved the PragerU materials last month, Superintendent Cade Brumley said the nonprofit’s videos represent an important optional addition to the state’s new “Freedom Framework” social studies standards.

The standards, adopted in 2022, are “based in American exceptionalism and our ongoing quest for a more perfect union,” Brumley said in a statement. “Students should understand and appreciate their role in sustaining and improving our constitutional republic” - and the PragerU videos “could be very helpful,” he said.

The PragerU partnerships are among the latest attempts by state officials to shape what school districts teach about hot-button topics. After the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread remote learning, many conservatives began complaining that instruction was left-leaning, spurring lawmakers in mostly red states to pass more than 70 laws restricting what teachers can say about race, racism, history, sexual orientation and gender identity, a Washington Post analysis found.

PragerU’s reach and funding exploded alongside these political battles over education.

Today, the nonprofit counts more than 11.3 million followers across its social media profiles on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and X, according to a Post tally. PragerU’s website says it draws 5 million views each day. Its revenue catapulted from $36 million in 2020 to $68.7 million in 2023, tax records show.

Streit, the CEO, said the nonprofit is funded by about 350,000 donors from a variety of backgrounds “who give a wide range of amounts.” She declined to name or confirm donors, but previous major givers - each donating more than a million dollars - have included the conservative Bradley Foundation, the National Christian Foundation and Texas fracking billionaires Farris and Dan Wilks, according to the Guardian and

It is unclear how frequently PragerU materials will be used. In states that have debuted collaborations with PragerU, education officials contacted by The Post either did not respond to questions or said they are not tracking how many school districts have implemented PragerU content. It is likely that decisions on whether to use PragerU materials will come down to the views of individual teachers, and that nobody will track how many educators show the videos.

“My guess is it will be a lot of political sound and fury, signifying very little educationally,” said Jonathan Zimmerman, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies the history of education.

A spokesman for the Louisiana Education Department noted that “supplemental resources and curriculum are local decisions,” adding that the department does not gather data from school districts on what supplemental materials they choose to use.

Education association heads in Montana and Arizona said they are unaware of any school districts formally choosing to use PragerU materials since their states opened partnerships with the nonprofit - and that it would be difficult to determine.

“We have over 400 school districts in Montana - each with their own school board and administration,” said Rob Watson, executive director of the School Administrators of Montana. “There could be at least one of those districts that have adopted PragerU, [but] I do not know of any who have.”

In Florida, which became the first state to partner with PragerU nearly a year ago, at least five school districts reportedly instructed their staffs not to use the videos. In most cases, the Florida districts cited policies requiring that all supplemental materials be approved by local school officials first. In Oklahoma, at least eight school districts have also declined to use PragerU materials for the same reason.


PragerU lessons cover topics from “government-run health care” to the U.S. Constitution to how to open and maintain a savings account. Under the PragerU partnership with New Hampshire, launched in September, state officials approved a PragerU online financial literacy course for use in public schools.

The nonprofit’s online material is free for teachers to use and available to the public through YouTube and its website. Its books and workbooks are also free online, although hard copies of some magazines and workbooks must be purchased, Streit said.

PragerU also publishes free guides meant to help teachers figure out how best to deploy its content. In Louisiana, for instance, PragerU created a nearly 100-page document, available online, that matches its videos to state standards.

Critics say PragerU lessons distort history and facts to serve a conservative worldview. Some scientists have said PragerU videos lack context and downplay climate change as climate alarmism, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations alleges some videos are anti-Muslim. Other complaints center on the nonprofit’s portrayal of slavery. In many PragerU videos that deal with the topic, various historical figures assert that people in the 21st century should not view those in the past by the light of modern-day values.

For instance, one animated video depicts Christopher Columbus speaking with two children from the 21st century. Defending the practice of slavery, he says “slavery is as old as time” and asks: “How can you come here to the 15th century and judge me by your standards? … You must ask yourself, ‘What did the culture and society at the time treat as no big deal?’”

The clip is one of several videos in which speakers describe slavery as an accepted practice in its time. PragerU videos also emphasize that White people worked to abolish slavery, while minimizing the fact that other White people were working to continue it.

In the video featuring Douglass, an animated version of the famed abolitionist says the nation’s Founding Fathers forged compromises on slavery because they were trying to unify the nation. The video mentions that some Founding Fathers owned enslaved people and says they knew slavery was “evil and wrong” but prioritized compromise and unifying the colonies. But Douglass was better known for his strident opposition to compromises over slavery in the 1840s and ‘50s, when the video is set, and the video conflates events of very different time periods, experts say.

“There’s a constant effort to spin atrocities in the past as not so bad,” said Kevin Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University, who has examined many of the company’s videos.


When Adrienne McCarthy, a researcher at Kansas State University, published an analysis of PragerU’s college-level materials in 2022, she found prominent themes included small government, opposition to the welfare state and pushback against movements such as Black Lives Matter. She concluded PragerU “mimics much of the extreme right-wing ideology in a way that is more readily digestible.”

Asked about criticism of PragerU’s offerings including the Douglass video, Streit said that whether people agree with PragerU’s portrayal of Douglass, “no one can fairly argue that PragerU denies the horrors of slavery.”

Generally, Streit said, the nonprofit is simply providing a counterbalance and offering a perspective that differs from what PragerU alleges children are hearing 90 percent of the time in school.

“Isn’t that what America is about?” she said. “We are not claiming people should only use PragerU.”