November 4, 2023

Julia Marsh, Miguel Rodriguez, Pedro Noguera: School Board Elections Could Make (or Break) Our Democracy:

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The three authors work in the higher-education world studying education. Writing for The Progressive, they raise an alarm for school board elections.

chool boards across America are under attack. We have all seen the disruptions at school board meetings triggered by clashes over controversial policies regarding the teaching of race and racism, ethnic and gender studies, and LGBTQ+ inclusion. What we may not have noticed, however, is that these attacks are not only about school boards, but about public education as a whole.

These disruptions are much more than concerned parents advocating for what’s best for their children. Instead, it is part of a strategic and deliberate—and well-funded—effort to erode public schools in order to advance a much broader political agenda. Initially tapping into parent frustration over school closures and mask mandates, political agitators have targeted school boards, and in several cases, the schools and educators who serve in them, to mobilize their base.

In a country that prides itself on being a beacon of free thought and democracy, growing assaults on the teaching of history, book bans, and the criminalization and surveillance of teachers are a threat to both. School boards have become a key political battleground. As former Trump advisor Steve Bannon called out in early 2021, “The path to save the nation is very simple—it’s going to go through the school boards.”

Local control and governance through elected school boards has long been criticized because of what they have contributed to gross inequity in school funding. But this model can also lead to greater community engagement with schools if people approach them with that spirit. In our own research, more than two-thirds of California voters—73 percent of voters with children and 69 percent of those without children—agreed that “local school boards are important because they ensure that decisions about education are made close to those who will be affected by them.”

We know that politics is often a dirty business. And when politics becomes a struggle for power at all costs and schools are disrupted, children lose. And let’s be clear: more often than not, these agitators are not parents of children in the schools they disrupt. A recent national poll showed that 76 percent of parents support the schools their children attend.

Read the full piece here. 

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