Elections test GOP pressure to politicize school board races


FILE - American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks to students at New River Middle School on September 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The once dormant and localized school board races have become the new front in a culture war raging across the country as resentments over COVID-19 restrictions and the anti-racism agenda reach a boiling point.  (AP Photo / Lynne Sladky, file)

FILE – American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks to students at New River Middle School on September 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The once sleepy and localized school board races have become the new front in a culture war raging across the country as resentments over COVID-19 restrictions and the anti-racism agenda reach a boiling point. (AP Photo / Lynne Sladky, file)

PA

The once dormant and localized school board races have become the new front in a culture war raging across the country as resentments over COVID-19 restrictions and anti-racism classes reach a boiling point.

On Tuesday, voters weighed in on dozens of races that were dominated by debates over masks, vaccines, race and history. The results will decide not only the policies of the districts, but also the persistence of the struggle for education in the national discourse and the question of rallying Republicans at the midpoint of 2022.

Conservatives have been strong advocates for the cause as they seek to move past the coronavirus pandemic and reframe the discussion of racial injustice in America as a rewrite of history.

The policy-monitoring website Ballotpedia identified 76 school districts in 22 states where candidates took a stand on race in education or Critical Race Theory, which argues that racism is systemic in American institutions and that the National School Boards Association, according to the National School Boards Association, is not taught in K-12 public schools.

The problem resonated in the school board race in the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, where Andrew Yeager was leading on Tuesday night. He is backed by a political action committee that opposes a diversity and equality plan created after a video of students chanting a racial insult began circulating online three years ago. A temporary restraining order blocks the plan.

1776 Action, a group inspired by former President Donald Trump’s now dissolved 1776 Commission that downplayed America’s role in slavery, urged candidates to sign a pledge calling for the restoration of a “Honest and patriotic education”. At least 300 candidates and elected officials have done so, said Adam Waldeck, chairman of the group.

“2021 is really going to be seen as kind of a canary in the coal mine of what’s coming next year and into the future,” said Waldeck. “This will be the year that I think mainly parents will stand up and say, ‘You know, we have a voice too. “And I think it’s going to be overwhelming.

Board meetings have become so controversial that they are laughed at in the skits on “Saturday Night Live”. Some board members have been called Nazis and child abusers. The National School Boards Association even likened some of what is going on to “domestic terrorism” before apologizing.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, accused the right wing of orchestrating protests to “turn schools into battlegrounds in an attempt to win elections by politicizing both public health and story”. Glenn Youngkin captured the Conservatives’ frustrations with schools over pandemic policies and diversity education.

Former Vice President Mike Pence stepped in, taking a moment at a campaign rally in Ohio on Saturday to urge voters to support Tory school board candidates in Tuesday’s election.

Waldeck said his group also sent targeted letters and texts during races in Johnston, Iowa, where three candidates signed the pledge, and in West Chester, Pa., Where law enforcement has been called to investigate threats against School Board President Chris McCune.

The backlash stems from his ordering the withdrawal from a July meeting of a parent who continued to demand information on critical breed theory after his two-minute deadline expired. McCune, who is on the ballot, wrote in a letter to the Daily Local News in Pennsylvania that it was his duty to “keep order” and insisted the district does not even teach. critical race theory.

“National and local political forces continue to urge residents to rally against local school boards and the CRT, even when board members and administrators offered to meet to share the district’s agenda to demonstrate that this just isn’t what we teach, ”he said.

The 1776 Project PAC, which is separate from 1776 Action and led by New York political agent and author Ryan Girdusky, has invested in races across the country. He raised $ 289,544 in the third quarter, according to the latest report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

“I think whoever comes forward has likely been knocked down to some extent by COVID,” said Jim McMullen, one of three candidates the group is supporting in the Blue Valley district, on the outskirts of Kansas City. The former English teacher and father of five had contemplated running before the pandemic but ultimately decided to launch an offer after the district went virtual and hybrid for part of last year.

In Colorado, Schumé Navarro, who is running for the Cherry Creek School District, went to court last month to get the right not to cover his face at a district candidate event. The mother of five said she could not wear a mask because of the abuse she suffered as a child.

“The environment and the culture it creates only steals our children,” she said of the masks.

In Ohio, former Republican state president Jane Timken took the time of her campaign for the U.S. Senate to offer advice and funding totaling more than $ 40,000 to more than 40 Conservative candidates in elections. hyperlocal school board races.

“We are not only helping them financially, but my team is knocking on doors and making calls with them,” said Timken, who said he completed a critical racial theory “listening tour” that revealed cases of children “brainwashed with leftist policies”.

In Wisconsin, voters in Mequon decide whether or not to replace the majority of the Mequon-Thiensville school board. Amber Schroeder, an organizer for the Recall MTSD movement, said that in addition to declining school performance, parents are more concerned with critical race theory, which she sees as evident in the district’s emphasis. on equity.

“It’s huge here,” Schroeder said, noting the district’s hiring of diversity consultants. “It’s already infiltrated our program.”

In Minnesota, Erin Shelton joined two other Conservative candidates on a “Vote For Three!” Platform Which denounces “the harmful ideologies like the CRT”, the political indoctrination and the “controversial medical mandates”. If all three are elected, they would hold an ideological majority on Wayzata’s board of directors.

“I don’t think the path to academic excellence involves making one group of students feel victimized or anyone else feeling responsible for that victimization,” Shelton said via email.

In Iowa, masking opponent Sarah Barthole received high-level endorsement from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds as she runs for the Ankeny School District school board in the Des Moines suburb of Des Moines. Barthole worked with Reynolds last year to reopen schools and is credited with inspiring the now blocked state law banning mask warrants in schools.

“The level of involvement in his campaign, I’ve never seen anything like it in a school board race before,” said Barthole treasurer Steve Boal, whose own wife served on the board more than a year ago. two decades. “Usually it’s a pretty low-key thing. “

Governor’s support in this race is just the start, predicted Tina Descovich, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a Melbourne, Florida-based group whose 142 chapters in 35 states have fought vaccine and vaccine mandates. masks.

“Our governor here in Florida almost said he was going to participate in school board races,” said Descovich, who is a former member of the Brevard County School Board in Florida. “I’m curious to see what this looks like for 2022.”

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