August 1, 2023

Errin Haines: Classrooms are dominating the culture war

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Errin Haines, an editor-at-large for The 19th, recently talked to National Education Association President Becky Pringle about the current culture warfare.

Education is perennially a top issue for voters, but headed into 2024, I’m already watching to see how this political priority will play out differently over the next year. I spoke with NEA President Becky Pringle, a former middle school science teacher, mother and grandmother, about the stakes of our current moment and how she’s thinking about her role in a consequential election year.

“Public education is the foundation of our democracy,” Pringle said. “Any attempt to destroy it or diminish it or dismantle it or do anything that discourages people about the promise of it … that’s unacceptable.”

Pringle, who spent more than three decades in the classroom, recalled that during her time as a teacher, parents were her “natural ally.” She barely recognizes the behavior she now sees in many communities: parents openly attacking teachers and students at school board meetings. The Moms for Liberty movement quoting Hitler. But she said she’s also encouraged by the parents who are vocal advocates for public schools and teachers — including at the ballot box.

According to the NEA, in 2022, candidates who support public over private schools and oppose book bans won 71 percent of school board races across the country. Pringle noted that included wins in red states like Montana, where 81 percent of their candidates won, and Missouri, where 80 percent posted wins.

“We’re winning because parents and educators are coming together and saying, ‘No, this is not what we want for our kids,’” Pringle said. “We don’t want banned books. We don’t want teachers marginalized and attacked. We don’t want funding going away from our public schools. We want to support public schools. We want to make sure every student has what they need and deserve to learn and we trust our teachers to make good teaching and learning decisions for our kids.”

A reminder the Pringle will be speaking at the NPE conference in October. Read the full article here.

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