The battle over school boards is a disaster for Democrats
The recent announcement by the Justice Department that the FBI would be looking for coordinated patterns of violence at local school board meetings is a broad overreach and an abuse of power that goes beyond the FBI’s jurisdiction.
If the Justice Department were serious about investigating coordinated violence in America, it would long ago have started examining the roles that antifa followers and other extremists played in the violent riots and demonstrations during the summer of 2020.
There is an aspect to the school board story which I believe has not been sufficiently reported, however. Local school boards could well be a significant force in the 2021 and 2022 elections.
By way of background: In New York — particularly on Long Island, which has well more than 100 school districts — school boards historically have been entirely separate from partisan politics. In addition, school board meetings usually were low-key events, with parents and taxpayers deferring to the boards’ members and school administrators except when there was a budget fight over a significant tax increase and/or reduction in programs or personnel. This community somnolence toward school matters, but it is rapidly vanishing.
The change toward activism began during the COVID-19 outbreak when schools were closed and kids had to learn remotely from home. Parents got a closer look at school curricula and began to ask what their kids were being taught on issues such as critical race theory and white privilege, gender equity and the use of pronouns, and America’s place in the world. There were also the COVID-related issues of mandated mask-wearing and delayed school reopenings.
It was mothers who spearheaded the move toward greater involvement. Women I knew told me of “moms” groups on social media that were becoming increasingly more vocal and growing exponentially in numbers.
If this nexus between local and national issues was forming on Long Island, where school policies generally are not overly controversial or radical, I saw nationwide implications which are now proving true.
We are seeing the phenomenon in Virginia, where school board issues are dominating the governor’s race so much that Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has had to run an expensive campaign ad assuring parents he did not mean what he said when he said parents should have no say in what their kids are taught.
A sleeping giant has been awakened. Parents and taxpayers are taking traditional school board issues and controversies into the political arena. As parents continue to mobilize, they can be expected to bring other child-related issues — such as school violence, open borders, and the inability to buy Christmas toys — into next year’s midterm congressional campaigns. This cannot be good news for Democrats, who will have to play defense on all these issues while being compelled to explain why the Biden administration has sicced the FBI on parents who publicly protest school policies.
Intended or not, this grassroots school board movement is a real-world response to the expanded influence of progressives and socialists on government and education. The awakened giant is fighting back!
Peter King retired in January as the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd Congressional District. He served 28 years in Congress, including as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter @RepPeteKing.