Public education has been under the microscope lately, especially since many states shut down in-person learning last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. With children learning from home via technology, many parents had the chance to hear what their children’s teachers were saying—and they didn’t always like it. In fact, many were downright disturbed by what public schools were teaching their children.
Parents should not be forced to sit by and watch as their children get indoctrinated with progressive ideas they don’t agree with. Assuming it is legitimate for the government—that is, the taxpayers—to fund education, the government should distribute those funds directly to parents in the form of vouchers and allow them to choose where to educate their children. Not only would this allow for more choice in schools, but it would also reduce much of the conflict we are seeing today between parents and school boards across the country.
A common response to voucher proposals is that they would allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send their children to private religious schools, thus violating separation of church and state. In other words, atheists and progressives argue that they should not have to financially support schools that teach students religious worldviews.
Statewide assessment results for 2021 show declines in the number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards compared to 2019 after a year of virtual learning and disruptions from COVID-19.
In math, 44% of students in grades three to eight and 11 who took the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) or Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) met or exceeded grade-level standards, down from 55% in 2019. Student reading proficiency dropped seven percentage points to 53% from 2019, while science proficiency dropped eight percentage points to 43%.
ACCESS for ELLs (English language learners) measures students’ English language proficiency. Of the students who took the ACCESS for ELLs in 2021, 9% were proficient in English, a three percentage point decrease from 2019.
Over the last few months, the U.S. has engaged in intense discussion over “critical race theory.” As Americans have debated the impact of CRT, several states have banned CRT from the public school curriculum, while other states are using it as part of that curriculum. The debate over CRT’s merits or dangers has prompted ideological battles in school board elections. This article looks at the increased activism around school board elections and its broader ramifications.
Past politicization of school board elections
Though school board elections may not seem as exciting as a presidential or even congressional race, they have taken on greater importance in recent years. In 2005, the city of Dover, Pennsylvania faced a contentious court case known as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which ruled that the school district’s teaching of intelligent design violated the separation of church and state. Shortly after the trial concluded, the district held its school board elections, and all the school board members who favored the teaching of intelligent design lost their reelection bids, at least in part due to their position on the issue. The election generated much discussion.
In the early 2010s, school board races saw partisan involvement through the Tea Party movement. Generally, candidates affiliated with the Tea Party ran on platforms of greater political accountability and lower property taxes. Carl Paladino, a former Republican nominee for governor in New York, won a race for the Buffalo school board on a Tea Party-type platform. The school board later ousted Paladino for making offensive comments about former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Nicole Solas was surprised to find her name listed on the meeting agenda of her local school board, especially since it said the board was considering taking legal action against her in response to her many requests for public records.
The Rhode Island mother of two began filing records requests with the South Kingstown School District several months ago, when she learned that teachers were incorporating critical race theory and gender ideology in the curriculum.
But she didn’t expect the school board to talk about suing her.
“I was shocked,” Solas, 37, told The Daily Signal in a recent phone interview. The school board, she said, “did not tell me that [the requests were] a problem.”
As disruptive as the 2020/2021 academic year was, it led to many positive educational changes that will be transformative and long-lasting. Most notably, parents have been re-empowered to take back the reins of their children’s education from government bureaucrats and teachers unions. Frustrated by school closures and district “Zoom schooling,” families fled public schools in droves over the past year, and there are several signs that these families won’t be returning this fall.
According to an analysis by Chalkbeat and the Associated Press, public school enrollment fell by an average of 2.6 percent across 41 states last fall, with states such as Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Mississippi dropping by more than 4 percent. These enrollment declines far exceeded any anticipated demographic changes that might typically alter public school enrollment.
How many of these students will be back in a public school classroom next year? Not as many as public school officials hoped.
Public school officials in Chicago will let each campus decide if it will keep school resource officers for the fall.
But at least some majority black schools have indicated they want the cops in the building, with one council being accused of “upholding white supremacy.”
Ahead of the discussions and votes that will likely take place throughout the coming months, Chicago Public School students rallied to demand that the police be removed from the schools. CPS board members are appointed by the mayor, but schools have councils that can make some decisions.