MISSION, Kan. (AP) – School board candidates opposing mask mandates and lessons on racism in US history have won in the Red States and some politically divided districts, but have often failed in their attempts to shaping school district policy on the emerging culture war issue.
The mixed results complicate matters for Republicans who increasingly see the struggle for education as a galvanizing issue that could help them influence voters. They point to the upheaval in Virginia of Republican Glenn Youngkin, who won his gubernatorial race Tuesday in the liberal-leaning state after making education grievances a key part of his campaign. Some conservative political action groups have claimed to have won victories in school board races where they funneled money.
But across the country, cultural and identity struggles have been less decisive. Policy-monitoring website Ballotpedia identified 96 school districts in more than a dozen states where racial education and masking were part of the debate. He found that at least one anti-critical racial theory or anti-mask candidate prevailed in 35 of the 86 districts in which he determined winners, or 40 percent.
“Where they won, they won in huge numbers,” said Doug Kronaizl, editor for Ballotpedia, noting that candidates who won on the issue tended to be concentrated in the same districts. “But overall nationally, they haven’t won that much.”
In Connecticut, a slate of five candidates opposing critical race theory lost the race for the board of education in the school system in Guilford, a predominantly white New Haven suburb of 22,000 people where a petition Calling for the superintendent’s impeachment circulated after the district abandoned its Indian mascot and redoubled its efforts to tackle social justice and racism.
“I think there continues to be a national discussion where the term Critical Race Theory is used inaccurately if not sincerely to attack work done in schools that has been successful in many races,” said the Superintendent Paul Freeman, who said the district does not teach critical race theory.
Technically, it’s an academic setting that focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain white dominance. But in recent months, it has become a catch-all political buzzword for teaching in schools about race and American history.
“We do not shame or blame the white children of Guilford when we talk about issues of race or racism in our classrooms, whether historic or contemporary,” Freeman said.
Outgoing school board members from Mequon, Wis., A wealthy Republican-leaning suburb north of Milwaukee, clinched the victory decisively after a group of parents led a recall effort based largely on their opposition to hiring a diversity consultant by the district. The four incumbents were re-elected by more than 1,000 votes after a summer petition campaign that caught the attention of local Republicans.
In Springboro, Ohio, outside Dayton, Frank Catrine, a local Republican activist who opposes critical race theory, finished fifth out of eight candidates in a school board race in which all incumbents were re-elected. He argued that diversity and inclusion efforts excluded white students and parents.
“If you want real diversity, you’re open to everyone,” Catrine said. “But if they only focus on black people and the LGBTQ community, not everyone is welcome.”
In Washington state, school board candidate Riley Smith said that upon knocking on the doors of his Democratic-leaning district in Spokane this fall, he encountered very few people interested in discussing race in education. .
“All of this critical, anti-masking race theory that dominated the national narrative wasn’t really on people’s minds,” said Riley, who beat a vocal opponent of the educational setting for the open siege.
Yael Levin, who heads the Virginia chapter of No Left Turn in Education, a group opposed to teaching critical race theory, said some losses were to be expected given the newness of the movement, which according to she, was born out of the pandemic, when distance learning made parents more aware of what their children were being taught. The organization has swelled to 78 chapters in more than 25 states since its inception last year.
“It’s a whole new movement of parents. And that’s a direct result of COVID. So it makes sense that we were successful in some places and not in others, “said Levin,” but we are going to keep our movement alive because the attack on our children is not going to end anytime soon.
In conservative Wichita, Kansas, Ben Blankley was among three candidates dismissed from their post and replaced by a slate of anti-critical racial theory candidates who have promised changes in COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the district.
“I kind of thought that would be the end result,” said Blankley, a 38-year-old aerospace engineer with a first year in the district. “Regardless of the decisions we made, I thought there would eventually be a political backlash for a bunch of good people. And it kind of bolstered my resolve to make the best possible decisions with the information we had, knowing that being out of the office might be a possibility because of it all.
Statewide, opponents of the mask mandate were ahead on Friday in several races in Johnson County, an increasingly purple suburb of Kansas City that voted for Joe Biden for president in 2020 despite a historic trend republican. Some of the winning candidates from the Blue Valley and Olathe Districts received a boost from the 1776 PAC Project.
Axios reported that the Political Action Committee – named after former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission, now dissolved, which downplayed America’s role in slavery – was successful in three-quarters of the 58 races in seven states. “Wins across the country and this is just the start,” the group tweeted.
Money from other conservative PACs poured into West Chester, Pa., After board chairman Chris McCune upset critical opponents of racial theory. McCune, a Republican, was initially in the lead in the vote count, but slipped behind a CAP-backed Critical Race Theory supporter and another candidate as the mail-in ballots are counted.
“These far-right allegations are very difficult and the climate around public education has been very toxic,” said McCune, 48, who works in software sales and whose five children attend all schools in the country. district.
1776 Action, which is separate from the political action committee of the same name, sent out targeted mail and text messages in the West Chester race and another in Iowa. The group, which encourages applicants to sign a pledge calling for the restoration of an “honest and patriotic education”, was heartened by the results.
“This movement to defeat anti-American indoctrination in our schools will only grow stronger in 2022,” said Adam Waldeck, chairman of the group.
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writer Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.
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