2022 Will Be the Year of the Parent Revolt (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
By Shawn Steel | Wednesday, 13 April 2022 12:32 PM
The defining story of the 2022 midterm elections is not being debated between commercial breaks on cable news. It is being discussed – three minutes at a time – in very public comments.
From San Francisco, California, to Richmond, Virginia, frustrated parents across the nation are making their voices heard at their local school board meetings. Most are not happy. More than any other event in our nation's history, the COVID epidemic has awakened parents to who is in charge of our public schools and what is being taught.
Instead of listening to parents' concerns, the education establishment has attacked parents for having the audacity to question their authority. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten infamously supported the notion that parents do not have a right to influence their kids' school curriculum.
Last fall, the National School Boards Association compared parents peacefully speaking at school board meetings to "domestic terrorists" and actually demanded the Biden administration enforce federal hate crime laws against school board activists. Almost immediately, the association retracted the letter and apologized.
In Orange County, California, Los Alamitos Unified School Board of Education President Marlys Davidson mumbled an explicit-laden attack against one parent speaking during public comments at a school board meeting. The smug anti-parent condescension was even worse in the Bay Area, where the entire Oakley Union Elementary School District Board resigned after a "hot microphone" captured board members disparaging parents at a public school board meeting.
We have already seen a small preview of this political mobilization in off-year elections, where incensed parents have successfully ousted long-time incumbent school board members from their perch.
In February, parents in San Francisco successfully recalled three members of the local school board, including the board president, for putting their far-left progressive agenda ahead of the needs of schoolkids. Rather than reopen schools, San Francisco school board members were busy stripping the names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Muir, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from schools for promoting "stereotypes of nonwhite people."
"Democrats across the country should take note," the Examiner's Zachary Faria predicted. "If this is how voters in a deep-blue city such as San Francisco respond to woke school boards and the teachers unions who back them, wait until you see how they respond outside liberal enclaves come November."
It is hard to overstate the scale of the brewing parent revolt. Nationwide, there are an estimated 90,000 school board members governing roughly 13,500 school districts. According to a 2018 survey by the National School Boards Association, the overwhelming majority – 88% – of these school board members are publicly elected with most featured on the same ballot as state and national races. Even when accounting for off-year elections and staggered terms, as many as 30,0000 school board officials will face voters this year.
After protracted school closures and extended mask mandates, parents are mad as hell and ready to return sanity to our schools. This November, California voters will elect nearly 2,900 school officials serving on roughly 1,000 school boards throughout the state.
Previously, these elections have been low-engagement campaigns. With so many contests on the ballot, voters lose interest by the time they reach the race for school board buried at the bottom of their ballot. That has given tremendous sway to two special interest groups, the local teachers union and school construction companies, both of whom have a vested interest in the outcome of school board campaigns.
However, the financial edge of education special interest groups cannot compete with the power of grassroots parent activism. With the help of Facebook groups and NextDoor, parents have begun to mobilize campaigns against obstinate school board members and are preparing for the 2022 midterm elections. What they lack in glossy mailers and slick television commercials, they more than make up for with sweat equity and passion.
(Shawn Steel, a former California Republican Party chairman is California's Republican National Committeeman)