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There is nothing inherently wrong with politicizing school board elections. In fact, there are very few decent arguments against school board candidates placing a political party indicator next to their name in elections.
The resurgence of parental interest in American education has been sparked by discoveries during the COVID lockdowns that shed light on decades of neglect, progressive advocacy, and nonsensical learning practices that were doing more harm than good. Parental interest has taken many forms in the last two years.
Parents brought their concerns to teachers and administrators at their children’s school. When that failed, they sought to bring curricular and pedagogical rot before the public at local school board meetings. Unfortunately, these concerns were often brushed aside, parents were turned away, and political scorning and mockery from teachers’ unions, Democrat candidates, the federal government, and the very school boards parents had gone to for help ensued.
In many cases, parents and local groups have announced their disillusionment with the state of their local school districts. Lackluster academic achievement, wasted tax dollars, progressive advocacy, and sexual misconduct has led thousands of parents across the United States to run for local school board elections.
Now the same liberal groups that called them domestic terrorists, white supremacists, science-deniers, and vultures are horrified that the parents running (and the communities supporting them) desire to see school board candidates declare party allegiance (Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, etc.).
While only a few states have politically-aligned school board elections, movements are underway in most others to provide candidates with the opportunity to align with a political party on the ballot in November.
Many claim it’s the simplest way to inform voters what values the candidate aligns with in an already supercharged political climate.
Progressives have claimed that conservatives are trying to politicize school boards by “forcing” candidates to place an “R” or a “D” next to their name. This argument smacks of most progressive arguments—sounding almost fair if you take the statement at its face, but falling apart hopelessly upon any detailed examination.
None of the state bills planned for future legislative sessions or those already on the books would force a candidate to choose between “Republican” or “Democrat” for their campaigns. Candidates are welcome to select (or make up their own) parties—or choose “nonaligned.” There is no reason a candidate should be forbidden to align their campaign with Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Green Party ideals if they so choose.
If a voter chooses to vote a “straight ticket” by selecting an entire party, they should be able to do so—from the President of the United States down to the local dogcatcher.
The progressive argument also assumes that, until now, education has never been politicized in the United States. This is, of course, laughable and deserves every ounce of scorn one could throw at such an elementary sentiment. Remembrance of recent years tells a different and more accurate story.
In the 2010s, school choice and Common Core were bitterly fought in several states. In the 2000s, it was “No Child Left Behind” and the medical assignment of students’ disorders like ADHD. In the 1990s, it was Darwinist Macro-evolutionary theory vs. Fundamentalist Young-Earth Creationism.
Education, like every other area of policy, has been inherently political since our founding because a party’s core ideals manifest themselves through all areas of regulation and allotment. Education policies have been central planks of every political party in the United States since Jefferson founded the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1802.
It is unreasonable to suggest that education should not be political as that is an impossible standard. The closest possibility would be a society that establishes and defends a common set of ideals that each individual is taught and expected to uphold.
From that point, individuals may debate the best interpretation and pursuit of those ideals, which is inherently political, but would theoretically be less acrimonious than our current state—in which we as a nation are unable to define which ideals we stand on as a common foundation.
There was a time in our nation’s history when we did stand upon such common ground, but in recent years the ideological rifts in the United States have split its populace along moral, ethical, and practical lines. Fueled by a toxic brew of hyper-sensitized social media and puritanical ostracization, the situation only deteriorates more quickly than the previous cycle.
In an ideal world, school board elections would not need to be political in nature. We all agree on the fundamental needs of children and their education. As it stands—we do not agree as a society what these needs are or how they are to be met.
In an age where political parties have chosen values for platforms—it is only fair that school board candidates be allowed to communicate their affiliation just as any other candidate.
If there is political fallout via certain candidates – endorsed by teachers unions and progressive groups – losing elections, that’s the fault of the candidate, not the system.
Tony Kinnett is the executive director of Chalkboard Review. He is a former STEM coordinator & developer in Indianapolis, with bylines in The Federalist, Fox News, The Daily Caller, and the Washington Examiner. Twitter: @TheTonus
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.