Traditionally, school boards were nonpartisan and nonpolitical—until Republicans decided they were a great place to wage the culture wars. After all, getting parents agitated over nonexistent Critical Race Theory and discussions of gender might win over those much-desired college-educated suburban women. In addition, by emphasizing parents' rights to overrule teachers and school administrators, Republicans could stick it to the teachers unions. Sounds like a plan! After all, the conventional wisdom is that wearing a nice fleece and talking about how parents, not principals, should run the schools, got Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) elected. So school board elections became the newest front in the culture wars.
It didn't go so well. The 1776 Project PAC, which steered millions of dollars into school board races, won only about a third of the races where it had a candidate. Another right-wing group, Moms for Liberty, endorsed 250 candidates. About half of them won. Also, although indirectly, Republican gubernatorial candidates in Kansas, Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin who tried to duplicate Youngkin's campaign based on trashing the schools lost their elections. Maybe schools aren't the magic bullet Republicans thought they were.
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is talking about a Parents' Bill of Rights, although he hasn't said what will be in it. Could it give a parent the right to remove an "objectionable" book from the school library? What if another parent says the book is not only not objectionable, but should be required reading? Then what? What if a parent says that they are horrified that a library should have a book that features incest, adultery, murder, slavery and torture, and that they therefore want all copies of the Bible removed immediately? What if some parents want schools closed during the next pandemic and others want them open? You can please some of the parents all of the time and all of the parents some of the time but you can't please all of the parents all of the time. Parents are never going to all agree on books, the curriculum, school closings, and the rest. That is why there are elections for school board. To be continued. (V)