Op-Ed: Why local school board elections are so important

October 21, 2021

By Coach Lou Holtz in The Washington Times

School board elections go mostly unnoticed. That has to change if we want this nation to endure.

Thousands of school board elections are taking place in November. Even more will take place in the spring. And something new is happening. Parents are waking up to the fact that school boards work for them, not the other way around. Some are evening running for board positions themselves to ensure their kids are educated, not indoctrinated.

As the Associated Press points out, “Parental protests over COVID-19-related mask mandates, gender-neutral bathrooms, and teachings about racial history, sexuality, and social-emotional learning are being leveraged into full-fledged board takeover campaigns that will get their first widespread test in just a few weeks.”

The teachers unions are hard at work, organizing campaigns for left-leaning candidates and opposing conservatives. They know what’s at stake. Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, says parents and concerned citizens getting involved and running for school board seats themselves are trying to “usurp local control”—by educrats, that is.

“Their goal is to limit students’ understanding of historical and current events and attack common-sense safety measures such as masking by bullying those who believe in science and teaching honest history,” she told the AP.

What are parents upset about? They know that the schools severely mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic. The learning loss from months of often inadequate online schooling was substantial, and kids will be playing catch-up for years to come. Many simply won’t catch up; that’s particularly true of Black and Hispanic kids, especially those whose parents didn’t have the luxury of working from home and supervising their lessons.

But instead of working to make up for lost learning time, school districts throughout the nation seem to be focused on other things — such as policing mask mandates and critical race theory.

First, the mask mandates. In Wyoming, Laramie High School was completely locked down for 90 minutes as police came in to arrest a 16-year-old junior who refused to wear a mask.

“They all said they were not going to arrest kids,” her father told a local newspaper. “But she was taken into custody, handcuffed, and brought down to the detention center.”

The straight-A student could now face expulsion.

In Texas, dozens of school districts are defying an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott and mandating masks on children, including kindergarteners. One district tried to get around the executive order by putting masks into its dress code.

The point here isn’t whether masks are good or bad—it’s that parents should be the decision-makers.

Next, critical race theory. Though some officials continue to claim that CRT doesn’t exist, or at least isn’t being taught in public schools, the facts are clear. The education establishment has fully bought into CRT and remains committed to including it in every subject (yes, even math).

In a board agenda that has since been removed from its website, the National Education Association has pledged to “Provide an already-created, in-depth, study that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society, and that we oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.”

What that word salad means is that the NEA will work to undermine the institutions that make this country great. If racism is systemic, as theorists believe, then the only way to address it is to dismantle the entire system.

That’s what parents object to. And that’s why they’re stepping up.

Parents are holding school boards accountable for what’s happening in classrooms. Some are even running for seats themselves — that is great. As I have said for many years, in life, be a participant, not a spectator.

What’s at stake is an entire generation — the future doctors and nurses who will care for us, the future financial advisors who will handle our investments, the future small business owners with whom we’ll trade. It’s their future. And it’s our future, too. Our children deserve the very best education we can give them. And that starts with school board elections.

Coach Lou Holtz serves as Chairman, Center for 1776 for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).

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