The reopening of the nation’s public schools has turned into one of the most divisive bones of contention of the entire pandemic. Of course, it’s a rather lopsided battle, with virtually all of the parents in the country on one side (in favor of a full reopening right now) and the teachers’ unions on the other. Unfortunately, one side frequently has almost all of the cards in that game and it’s not the parents. But that may be starting to change. This is something we’ve discussed here in the past, but Axios is reporting that there appears to be a growing wave of parents around the country who are looking to take matters into their own hands. This is the sort of problem that is best addressed at the local level, and frustrated parents are increasingly stepping up to run for their local school boards.
The debate over coronavirus precautions and school reopening has fueled a surge of new candidates for school boards across the country.
Why it matters: What was traditionally a nonpartisan, hyper-local role is now at center of a swirling national political debate. Conservative and progressive parents have clashed over when and how to reopen classrooms — and it’s pushed some of them to run for office themselves.
“Historically, we’ve actually seen where some school board seats have gone uncontested — sometimes for years — and now we’re seeing multiple candidates for seats,” National School Boards Association CEO Anna Maria Chávez told Axios.
This is some of the best news I’ve seen in a season without very much of that to go around. A couple of years ago, we went to a local school board meeting (even though we don’t have children) at the behest of some friends who were concerned over some funding proposal that was under discussion. I was rather disheartened to see that barely half a dozen other people showed up. I learned that some of the members of the board hadn’t had a challenger in years, much like what’s being reported in the linked article. Everyone simply took it for granted that the same people were always on the board until they retired or died, even if they didn’t like the direction the school was taking.
Of course, there’s still a question of how much power newly restaffed school boards have when it comes to the issue under discussion. You can win all of the seats in a blowout and vote to reopen the schools fully tomorrow, but if the teachers’ union stonewalls you and simply refuses to send the teachers back to class, your options may be limited.
This has happened in some of the larger districts in the country, including several in the San Francisco Bay area. In most cases, the teachers have locked in so much power for themselves in their contracts that you can’t fire a teacher even if they’re caught abusing the students, to say nothing of dumping them over a question of not showing up for work.
Even if you do manage to fire some of the deadwood, the rest will probably wind up going on strike and getting the support of the national unions. To have any real reform, there needs to be a national effort to restructure this system and put more power back in the hands of the parents and the communities. If we take anything away from this pandemic as a learning experience, it should be the lesson that the teachers’ unions are the real problem that we’re dealing with when it comes to all manner of ills in our public schools. And the way that they facilitate the liberal indoctrination of children is endemic across much of the nation as well. Those sorts of policies may well be controllable if sensible people are elected to school boards.