Republicans 'making school board meetings partisan': Is Politico right?

Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters

Fact Box

  • On December 29, 2021, Politico released an article asserting that Republicans are making school board races “into politicized, partisan elections” to get more control for the 2022 midterms. 
  • In October, Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill (HB 9072) allowing school board candidates to list their party affiliation on the ballot, with Arizona and Missouri following suit. 
  • Martin West, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education stated, “I do think party labels would produce more informed voters [...] but at the same time, it would likely accelerate emerging trend of nationalization of local education politics.” 
  • There are close to 13,800 public school districts in the United States that serve 55.2 million students. School boards govern districts and schools, but also have the authority to impose taxes, recommend measures for legislation, and be involved in personnel decisions.

Siam (Yes)

Education has become a contentious topic in schools. Besides the chaos caused by the COVID pandemic, there has been a great deal of frustration among parents concerned about how their children are educated about systemic racism. Parents have been protesting against these schools almost every week, and sometimes these frustrations have turned violent. But Republicans, according to Politico, have utilized this anger among parents to make future school board meetings partisan and hopefully develop future generations of GOP voters. Already Republican-controlled states have passed laws limiting how schools can teach racism and race in schools. Still, now this school conflict is also entering Democratic-held states like Virginia, New Hampshire, and Minnesota. Parents are now being supported by 'shadowy groups' who are successfully backed by republican candidates running against 'critical race theory.' 

By making school boards partisan, Republicans have politicized school board races to gain more voters. The format and conduct of school board meetings have been established for many years, and these conflicts appear to be much recent and do not appear coincidental. Across America, Republicans are pushing state and local lawmakers to turn the once sedate and dull school board races into partisan elections. Additionally, Republicans who have previously ignored the nation's education history on racism/discrimination are now supporting the parents' outrage towards the critical race theory curriculum, who in turn are pushing lawmakers to counter this theory with new legislation. All this is being done to gain more local and state control and swing the Republicans to victory in the 2022 midterms and beyond. 

Curtice (No)

Politico recently published a concern piece asserting how Republicans are wrong to try electing conservatives to local school boards. What is wrong here, however, is Politico making Republicans into the controversy, instead of the thing they are protesting. Many have rightly called Politico out for it.

School board elections used to be of little interest to parents with school-aged kids. Because of this, the political Left has taken advantage of that in education, both in elementary and university settings. Political parties running candidates for public positions are not unique to either party. Democrats have been running candidates for local school boards for decades, successfully infusing the Leftist agenda into the classroom. That includes such controversial issues as the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and transgender policies.

The practical application and real-world fallout of such policies have aroused many parents across the political spectrum to fight back. Teaching CRT and gender theory indoctrinates children to see all people as either oppressed or oppressor because of their skin color and to explore sexuality and gender confusion. This fall, a rape at a high school was committed by a trans student in a girl's restroom. The November gubernatorial race in Virginia showed these issues are hugely important to parents, and they aren't going away.  

Plenty of parents are concerned about their children's education, safety, and future. Republicans or not, they are looking to run candidates who value a more traditional educational curriculum. Through this piece, Politico fails to acknowledge the Left's role in this Republican push for open partisanism—the school boards, teachers unions, and the curriculum have already been politicized. Republicans, like any party, are allowed to make their opinions known and push back through the Democratic process of elections.

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