As Virginia's gubernatorial candidates duke it out over public education, voters in several states will have the opportunity to cast their ballots for school board candidates running to challenge the woke agenda.
Grassroots organizations in Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia launched campaigns against incumbent school board members who kept schools closed during the pandemic and allowed progressive ideology to infiltrate the classroom. Now, a dozen candidates in four races hope their opposition to radicalism in schools will help them capture open school board seats.
Schools have become a major issue in Virginia's off-year election and are expected to be a central issue in the midterms next year. Parents turned to school board meetings over the past year to debate coronavirus mitigation strategies like masking and critical race theory. Several candidates opposed to classroom "wokeism" have secured seats in several school board races earlier this year.
Ames Community School District in Iowa is one of many districts where parents have mobilized against progressive school officials and inaction during the pandemic. While the district's state ranking dropped over the past year, school officials pushed equity initiatives in the classroom.
The district marked its return to in-person learning in February with a Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. Students were given "guiding principles," which include "disrupting the Western prescribed nuclear family" as well as descriptions of "restorative justice" and what it means to be "trans affirming." Second grade students were given "queer affirming" and "transgender affirming" coloring pages, Eve Lederhouse, an Ames parent, told the Washington Free Beacon.
In response to falling standards, Lederhouse and other parents formed Ames Deserves Better. The group is backing three school board candidates, including Rolf Duvick, a father of Ames alumni. Duvick told the Free Beacon that many Ames parents believe they are "losing control" over their children. He says one parent showed him a definition sheet given to her fourth grader, which included terms related to sex and sexuality, like "agender" and "androgyny."
In Beachwood, Ohio, three candidates are running to oust a school board that simply "rubber-stamps" left-wing initiatives proposed by the superintendent. The candidates oppose the district's push for "antiracism" initiatives and implicit bias training. One candidate, Valerie Charms-Mason, says the district emphasizes indoctrination over education.
"A lot of the books they are reading are a call to action, and if you're not specifically an activist then you are therefore a racist," Charms-Mason told the Free Beacon. "Schools are not about teaching kids to become activists."
In many school districts, progressive initiatives come with a hefty price tag. Three candidates in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, want to bring financial oversight to a school board that signed a pricey contract with the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio. For $22,500, the equity consultant will develop a "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" plan for the district. Unite for Education, a parent group backing three candidates for the race, says it will restore transparency in school budgets and curricula.
In Virginia, Stafford County Public Schools board candidate Maureen Siegmund has her eyes on more than just local issues. Her district was one of the first in the country to let students use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. She tells the Free Beacon that Virginia leaders modeled the commonwealth's transgender bathroom policies off Stafford's, the first of many radical education initiatives implemented at the state level.
Recently, the Virginia Department of Education created a model equity plan for districts to follow. The "Roadmap to Equity" promotes the controversial "antiracist" scholar Ibram X. Kendi. Siegmund and three other school board candidates want to make education a local issue once again.
"Educational decisions should be made with direct input from the people most directly affected: the students and their families, faculty, and staff," Siegmund told the Free Beacon, "not national teachers unions pushing a political agenda or their local subsidiaries."
Voters rarely turn out for school board elections. On average, between 10 to 15 percent of the voting population casts a ballot in these races. But candidates hope the national focus on public education will draw attention to their races.
"The good news is that school board elections are finally getting the attention that they should have been getting for decades," Lederhouse said. "We know that more people will turn out for this election than ever before."