The Patriot Post® · Finally, an Interest in Local Education

By Michael Swartz ·

To readers of The Washington Post, the warning was like that for a five-alarm fire: “Democrats can’t let the right wing weaponize school boards.” In reality, the conclusion of a lengthy piece by education writer Laura Meckler and Timothy Bella may have been comforting to the readership, as it detailed a Connecticut community where “significant voter engagement” beat back an attempted conservative school board takeover, but it detailed a chain of events where voters have become truly “woke” as they see what is being taught and required at the schools their children attend. This newfound awareness and passion may be one of the few favorable byproducts of the pandemic and its subsequent shifting of the classroom from school to home.

In quoting the election website Ballotpedia, the writers assert that they “found that candidates who took conservative stances on race, gender and pandemic issues did not win most of their races.” In fact, “Of the 275 candidates that Ballotpedia was able to label, about 28 percent of the winners had taken a conservative stance.” Presumably, a “conservative stance” would be based on their positions on several recent issues that have come to the fore: being against the forced wearing of masks in schools and compulsory vaccination against COVID-19, opposing the accommodation of a number of genders larger than two and the integration of “transgender” males into girls’ sports, and the racist principles behind what’s commonly become known as Critical Race Theory.

Of course, for every winner there is a loser, and the Post article continued: “Teachers unions, which support the racial equity work, said their tracking also found more wins among liberal candidates. ‘The vast majority of them won even when they were facing right-wing candidates who were well-funded,’ said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest union, though she did not have data to support that assertion.”

That last clause is key because we only have a limited number of data sets — reportedly, Ballotpedia tracked 96 school districts with 302 seats up for election; however, there were thousands of school board seats at stake around the country. And who knows what races the NEA was following?

Another problem with the Post’s assertion is its lack of context — for one thing, we don’t know how many of these candidates were incumbents, and they traditionally do well. Ballotpedia’s most recent information notes: “From 2018 to 2020, Ballotpedia covered elections for 2,803 school board seats in 960 school districts. Ballotpedia normally covers school board elections in the 200 largest school districts by student enrollment and the school districts that overlap the 100 largest cities by population. However, in 2019, we also covered all school districts up for election in the state of North Carolina. Those districts are included in this data.”

More importantly, “We found that between 35% and 40% of elections were unopposed each year, that incumbents won between 57% and 61% of seats each year, and that between 82% and 89% of incumbents who sought re-election won each year.” If conservatives — who presumably are the challengers in most of these elections — won 28% of the seats in races where incumbents typically win in the 85% range, that’s a very significant dent. And it’s good news.

Before our side gives up hope for ever alleviating the trend toward indoctrinating our children, it’s worth noting that this year’s progress has being made despite the built-in advantages the other side has.

Imagine a school board candidate who’s running for the first time. The campaign seldom has a lot of money, may not have many volunteers because those backers are blue-collar working stiffs who barely have time for their own families, and, in a lot of cases, the candidate has a steep learning curve because he or she didn’t get into the race until the last minute. On the other side, those teachers unions don’t just bring a large bankroll to the table — they also bring a cadre of volunteers from one of the most trusted professions who can stand at the polling place, smile, and hand out so-called “apple ballots” that have the union-endorsed choices. In a contest of name recognition, it’s why incumbents seldom lose. Moreover, given the fact that soliciting votes was difficult in some places with overly restrictive COVID regulations, it’s a wonder the insurgents and their truly grassroots campaigns did as well as they did.

However, now that there’s a base of knowledge and experience, the path for those reform-minded school board hopefuls in elections held next spring may be a little smoother. Candidates have had more time to develop their own networks of supporters, and the availability of financial backing is improving as people pay more attention to local school board races and willingly open their checkbooks. It’s not yet going to match the funding teachers give their union, but it makes things more competitive.

And the other side is worried. Dan Domenech, who is the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, warned about the scrutiny of newly emboldened parents in the Post piece. “I think it’s a major impact frankly,” said Domenech, adding that “curriculums might be modified when parents complain and superintendents who support robust racial equity work might not be hired.”

Domenech went on, noting as the Post paraphrases that “most school board members are elected in the spring and predicted these debates will grow more intense in the run-up to those contests.”

“‘In those places where they have not had these problems yet, they are very cautious, concerned and careful,’ he said. ‘This isn’t going to go away. This is going to spread and this is going to grow.’”

If this pro-freedom, pro-America grassroots effort wasn’t a threat to the Big Education power structure, you would have never seen an article like Meckler and Bella’s placed in their house organ, The Washington Post. Keep on applying the pressure.