Report: School Boards Emerge as the Next Political Battleground

Opponents of a proposal to makes changes to the sex education guidance for teachers, rallied at the Capitol Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. The California State Board of Education is set to vote Wednesday on new guidance for teaching sex education in public schools. The guidance is not …
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

As far-left Democrats continue to disagree with Republicans on reopening schools, local school boards are viewed as the next big political battleground.

Schools, as Axios reports, have usually been a very nonpartisan, middle-of-the-road institution. Recently, especially since the start of the Chinese coronavirus, they have been in the center of the political landscape. Far-left Democrats and Republicans have been in a battle debating the reopening of schools and sending children back.

Now parents are looking to make the changes needed themselves and contemplating running for office. Especially after most parents have been the teacher while there is no choice but to have distance learning.

A survey by the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) in March sought to see whether parents wanted to have their children return to school. At the time, the early results showed 51 percent overall would return to an in-person class. Almost 62 percent of elementary school families favor returning, along with 44 percent of middle school families and 33 percent of high school families.

Anna Maria Chávez, the CEO of the National School Boards Association, told Axios, “Historically, we’ve actually seen where some school board seats have gone uncontested — sometimes for years — and now we’re seeing multiple candidates for seats.” Chávez continued, “this is something that we’ve seen during the pandemic because, again, every kitchen table has become a public school classroom.”

Troy Flint, the Chief Information Officer for the California School Boards Association, affirmed to Axios this continues to be a disagreement, parents are “looking to express their political fervor in all different avenues,” which is where the school boards come into place.

School boards are seen as a stepping stone for parents who are looking to not stand on the sidelines longer and step into the spotlight. Flint continued to tell Axios, “school boards, as the most approachable elected body, is a natural first step.” The children are in schools, and they are able to run for office.

Last year former President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress made it clear the top priority was to reopen schools. The Hill reported Trump and Betsy DeVos, former Education Secretary, pushed the schools to reopen by looking into withholding funds from schools that did not offer in-person classes. 

Axios had reported some parents looking to run for school are looking for endorsements. There are also conservative grassroots groups looking to get involved across the country in these types of local races. Some of the groups are:

  • “Patriots for Delaware” endorsed five pro-school-reopening candidates for the state’s May 11th elections.
  • Parents in Pennsylvania formed their own political action committee to support school board candidates running to keep kids in school in person.
  • In El Paso, Texas, the Facebook group “Let Schools Ring” supported Leslie Hoard, who reportedly questioned the use of masks in school and supported school reopening. Hoard lost to incumbent Josh Acevedo, who told Axios running against Hoard, who he described as science denier, was “really, really intense.”
  • A group called “Moms for Liberty” has been pressuring school board members in Brevard County, Florida to drop its mask mandate for students.

A study early this year showed there was an urgent need to reopen the school as soon as possible, which was able to be done safely. The study showed that not having children in schools had far more impact on their future schooling and mental health. The report examined the findings from more than 120 studies that were done over the past year since the Chinese coronavirus had shut down public schools nationwide closures.

Using distance learning weighed the “academic and social-emotional costs” that affect the lives of students and families during school closures. The cost of mental health, including “learning loss, declines in mental health, and the economic impact on families,” which is shown to have negative effects that could last for years after the coronavirus pandemic is over, was also shown in the study.

One Democrat, Miranda Turner, from Arlington, Virginia, who was looking to receive the Democrat endorsement for upcoming elections in May, told Axios she wasn’t looking to run originally. Turner told Axios, she later realized the “other candidates weren’t making returning to school a priority.”

Turner told Axios she has recognized her platform has a better appeal to Republicans since she is for schools to reopen. She reportedly insisted she is a Democrat. She additionally told Axios, the movement of wanting schools to reopen has often been “characterized and sometimes disparaged as being Republican, Trumpian, conservative… which I think is really unfortunate.”

Looking deeper into the parents who have dealt with the lack of schools reopening, the far-left run San Francisco currently has a parent-led effort that recalled three of the seven school board members, Axios reported. The school board used their time looking for ways to rename 44 of the schools in the district that the board felt “honored people with discriminatory legacies,” NBC News reported.

One of the recall efforts leaders, Siva Raj, had told Axios, the board members “completely failed” to fight for the children. Raj claimed, “parents need to have more of a voice. We need to have a seat at the table.”Axios reported the organizers for the recall to have more than 10,000 signatures collected of the 51,000 needed by September in order to unseat at least two of the members.

Flint continued to tell Axios, “the goal of providing a quality education for all students is nonpartisan, but I think it would be naive at this point to say that your average person views it through that lens,” Flint said.

Flint concluded, “schools have become another outlet where the culture wars are being waged.”


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