Parents across the nation have become a unified and powerful force while raising education to the top of public concern. The parent rights movement will now be a critical issue for the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.
“I think people are feeling out of control,” said Colleen Leary, a school board member in Chesapeake, Va. “When you look at COVID and all the things that have happened and people want to get back to life. They want to be normal again. And I think that the closest place that they can do that is in their local area and one of those places is, of course, their local schools.”
Parents concerned about education demonstrated their political power in the recent Virginia gubernatorial race. A Fox News exit poll found one-quarter of voters called critical race theory their top issue when deciding who to support for governor, and more than two-thirds of them voted for Republican Glenn Youngkin.
And it’s not just the high-profile districts getting the headlines. From Johnson County in Kansas to school districts in California, parents are electing school board members they say better reflect the values of the community.
Axios reports that the 1776 Project Pac backed conservative school board candidates in seven states and won three-fourths of its targeted races. In addition, the parents’ rights organization Moms for Liberty started in January and already has 60,000 members and 152 chapters across 33 states. It all points to an emerging movement that radio host Erick Erickson describes as organic and bipartisan.
“If you look at the demographics and the polling, on this there are a lot of liberal parents as well who are deeply concerned about school closures, mask mandates for children,” he said.
But as parents become more active at school board meetings, the media and National School Board Association claim they’re a security concern. That has led Attorney General Merrick Garland to order the FBI to get involved, citing a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against educators. On October 4, he ordered the FBI to identify and discourage any such threats.
While at first denying they were involved, internal emails show the Biden administration helped direct the Justice Department against parents. The issue has caused more than 24 states to withdraw their association from the national board while Republicans call for an investigation into the new policy.
Erickson said the Biden administration may soften its stance on schools following Youngkin’s victory and the prominent role of education in the race. Such a move could tamp down some of the more heated meetings and perhaps encourage the political empowerment many parents are beginning to pursue.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice