Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Republicans use mask disputes and 'critical race theory' to push for partisan elections of local boards of education

A crowd attends a board meeting on mask mandates in the Kalamazoo 
County Schools in Michigan. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher, Getty Images)
Republicans are pressing local and state officials to make historically nonpolitical school-board races partisan "in an attempt to gain more statewide control and swing them to victory in the 2022 midterms," Andrew Atterbury and Juan Perez Jr. report for Politico.

Tennessee recently allowed school-board candidates to list their party on the ballot, and Arizona and Missouri legislators may do likewise. Similar legislation in Florida "would pave the way for partisan school board races statewide, potentially creating new primary elections that could further inflame the debate about how to teach kids," Politico reports. "The issue is about to spread to other states."

The American Enterprise Institute says conservatives should “strongly consider” letting partisan affiliations to appear on school-board ballots, "as part of broader efforts to boost voter turnout for the contests," Politico reports. A group of conservatives, including representatives of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute and Kenneth Marcus, former Education Department civil-rights chief, say school-board elections should be held on the same schedule as partisan elections "as part of sweeping efforts to 'end critical race theory in schools'," an unproven presumption.

"In Florida, school boards are among the last elected officials who blocked policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis," Politico notes. "If Republicans succeed in pushing the state to strip school-board elections of their nonpartisan status and gain more representation on school boards, they could break the last holdouts who regularly defy the governor," a possible presidential candidate absent Donald Trump.

“We’re out there trying to elect good conservatives that will follow essentially the governor’s mission as it relates to education,” said Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), who leads both the Senate Education Committee and the state Republican Party.

Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told Politico, “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.”

Politicization of school-board races doesn't necessarily mean changes to ballots. The Texas Republican Party recently "formed a new Local Government Committee to work with county parties on backing candidates in nonpartisan local elections, where issues like mask mandates and the teaching of what some conservatives call critical race theory have become flashpoints," the Texas Tribune reports. "The state Democratic Party has been supporting local nonpartisan candidates through a program, Project LIFT, that started in 2015. The program, which stands for Local Investment in the Future of Texas, recruits, trains and provides resources to people running for municipal offices and school board."

No comments: