Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tea Party seeing success in school elections

Federal and state elections are not the only political races influenced by the loosely organized Tea Party. "Though difficult to quantify, the same forces that swept conservative candidates into office on the congressional and state levels appear to be working their way down to some local races," Christina A. Samuels of Education Week reports. In Wake County, North Carolina, voters elected four conservative-leaning members to its nine-member school board in 2009. While the board election is nonpartisan, the new members "garnered much of their support from voters displeased with a school assignment policy based on socioeconomic diversity, including some conservative community organizations that viewed the policy as social engineering," Samuels writes.

In March 2010 the new members voted to do away with the assignment policy, drawing "criticism from the district’s accrediting agency for high schools, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and federal Secretary of Education Arne Duncan," Samuels writes. In North Carolina's Gaston County, newly elected board member Mark A. Stephens was listed "by the Tea Party of Greater Gaston County as a candidate who aligns with the group’s priorities of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets," Samuels writes. "Because of the political climate, people were a lot more interested in everything," the candidate said.

In Baraboo, Wis., local Tea Party organizer John Meegan received the most votes in a six-person race for three school-board spots. Frederick Hess, the director of education policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, says the nature of conservatism may be changing on school boards. "Given how much of the conservative criticism has been the need to reassert local governance and preserve community values, it would make sense” to see local Tea Party organizations focusing on school races, he told Samuels. (Read more)

No comments: