Republicans envision new front in education wars: making school board races partisan


The latest attempts to make school runs partisan business come as education has been in the spotlight amid the pandemic and the high-profile victory of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, who campaigned on the pledge to give parents more say in their children’s education. It also comes as other crucial battlefield issues bubble up in education, including classroom lessons on history and race – a topic that has become a bogeyman for GOP policymakers in the past. many states that condemn efforts to teach young people about the history of discrimination in the country. .

With the convergence of all of these policies, there have been clear disconnections between state and local leaders, and even parents, over how to educate their children. Republicans openly embrace parental rights as a key factor in shaping policy in Washington and in many state houses, as evidenced by proposals to strengthen parental protection against schools.

“There is a major underestimation nationally, even on the political side, that these parents are really frustrated,” said Bridget Ziegler, a member of the Sarasota County School Board who is also the vice-wife of the deputy. President of the Florida GOP.

New momentum

These divisions have injected new energy into a long-standing debate over the role of overt partisanship in school board campaigns, as prominent Conservative groups this year called for major changes to the timing of board elections. and voters see party labels on their schools. ballots.

“Including party labels in school board elections seems like a common sense reform that would give voters more information, while potentially increasing turnout and strengthening local accountability,” wrote Conservative Thomas B’s Aaron Churchill. Fordham Institute in August. “But such a change would be an uphill battle.”

The debate is no longer moot in Tennessee, which, like most states, once specifically prohibited partisan school board elections. Tennessee law, signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee in November, allows local political parties to field openly Republican, Democratic or Independent candidates.

Tennessee law is more flexible than the initial speech of lawmakers to demand partisan elections to the state school board. Yet it has sparked a wave of activity from county politicians set to enact the law and notable divisions among local school boards who disagree with it.

“It wasn’t something that was done in Tennessee. I don’t think that’s healthy, and I think it’s a pretty universal thought among school boards in Tennessee, ”said Jim Welch, chairman of the Kingsport Board of Education, last month. Members approved a resolution that partisan elections could “create divisions within the board and distract from the needs of students.”

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