February 13, 2024

Steve Monacelli: Partisans Are Politicizing Our Schools

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Continuing his series for the Texas Observer, Steve Monacelli digs into some of the forces infiltrating school boards (Spoiler alert–it’s not just Texas).

An unusually tense discussion ensued in the wood-paneled boardroom of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (ISD) in June 2022.

Some newly elected conservative trustees supported a proposed policy on “classical social and emotional learning” that targets social issues such as “critical race theory,” “gender fluidity,” and “potentially pornographic material.”

But others questioned why a politically connected attorney had been quietly hired to help craft that proposal: Tim Davis. Davis isn’t just any lawyer—he also serves as the general counsel of the Tarrant County GOP. The district had previously worked with a different firm. Trustee Becky St. John now wanted to know why a new firm had been hired without her knowledge or any public vote.

“This is an expenditure of district funds for legal opinion, so I have some questions,” said St. John, whose public inquiry was cut short when then-board president Casey Ford moved the discussion to a closed executive session.

Such behind-the-scenes connections between paid Texas Republican Party operatives and school board trustees have become increasingly common amid a coordinated push by political action committees (PACs) and their preferred consulting firms to secure ultraconservative majorities on school boards across Texas, a recent investigation by the Texas Observer revealed.

It’s a part of a national trend that’s seen historically low-budget, nonpartisan school board elections from California to Pennsylvania turned into high-dollar, professionalized political battlegrounds where ideological hot-button issues displace the more mundane concerns of school districts. Through consulting on campaigns, forming PACs, and in some cases even providing paid legal advice, current and former Republican party operatives have been key players in these ideological efforts—and often receive big bucks for their work.

Read the full article, rich in details and research, here. 


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