Sunday, November 12, 2023

Voters drub Moms for Liberty ‘parental rights’ candidates at the ballot In Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey and elsewhere, the education culture war fell flat. (WaPo)

Delightful news.  Note toCommissioners Alaimo, et al:: we are a democratic republic. We are not a theocracy.  We are The United States of America. 

From The Washington Post;

Voters drub Moms for Liberty ‘parental rights’ candidates at the ballot 

In Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey and elsewhere, the education culture war fell flat

Jesse, 10 months, waits for his dad, Ryan Steel, to finish voting at a polling station Tuesday in Richmond. (Julia Nikhinson for The Washington Post) 
6 min

In 2021, the right-wing “parents rights” Moms for Liberty claimed victory in 33 school board races in a single county in Pennsylvania — Bucks — saying that it had helped turn 8 of 13 school districts there with a majority of members who support their agenda.

Tuesday’s elections were a different story. In Bucks County, and many other districts across the country, voters rejected a majority of candidates aligned with the group’s agenda in what elections experts said could be a backlash to their priorities.

In Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey and other states, voters favored candidates who expressed interest in improving traditional public education systems over those who adopted the agenda of Moms for Liberty, which has been at the forefront of efforts to reject coronavirus pandemic health measures in schools, restrict certain book sand curriculum and curb the rights of LGBTQ students, and other like-minded groups.

“‘Parental rights’ is an appealing term, but voters have caught on to the reality that it is fueling book bans, anti-LGBT efforts, pressure on teachers not to discuss race and gender, whitewashing history, and so on,” said political analyst Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia and founder and director of the Center for Politics. “Parents may want more input in the schools, but as a group they certainly aren’t as extreme as many in the Moms for Liberty.”

The school board results were part of a broader wave of support for moderate and liberal candidates in local and state elections who campaigned on support for traditional public education. An election analysis conducted by the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest national teachers’ union, found that in 250 races across the country, candidates in different types of races backed by opponents of traditional public education lost about 80 percent of the time.

In Virginia, Democrats who support public education took control of the House of Delegates and regained control of the state Senate, while in Kentucky, incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear won after a campaign in which he rejected publicly funded private school vouchers and backed funding for public school districts.

Voters in New York approved changes to state law that will allow smaller school districts to get more school funding.

Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich said in an interview that the group saw victories in about 40 percent of their public endorsements. “We are thrilled about that," she said, noting that nearly 85 percent of candidates the group publicly supported had never run for office before.

“Maybe being first-time candidates had something to do with it, but it is also true that there has been something of a backlash to the group’s right-wing orientation,” Sabato said.

The group was founded in 2021 in Florida and quickly became prominent, pressing an agenda of “parents rights" while opening chapters across the country, and receiving support from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who appointed Descovich in September to the Florida Ethics Commission.

Moms for Liberty didn’t exist 3 years ago. Now it’s a GOP kingmaker.

Moms for Liberty endorsed candidates only in school board elections. The group’s website has removed its list of endorsements for Tuesday’s elections, and a section titled “2023 Win Report” says “coming soon.”

A group spokesperson said she would provide a list of endorsements to The Washington Post but did not. Some candidates who were not officially endorsed by the group declared themselves to be supporters of its agenda, and in some places the group recommended candidates without officially endorsing them.

In Virginia, candidates endorsed by Democrats in the traditionally nonpartisan races won control of the school board in Loudoun County, which had become a hot point in the “culture wars” during the coronavirus pandemic amid fights over school closures and masking. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won election in 2021 on a “parents rights” agenda and he was in the county a day before the vote speaking in support of it.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats won control of the Central Bucks School District by ousting three “parental rights”-supporting Republicans as well as the school board president and retaining two other seats in elections that collectively cost some $600,000.

The current school board had imposed a number of conservative policies, including one banning books it deemed controversial as well as pride flags. It also required teachers to alert parents if any student asked them to use a different name or pronouns for them.

Democrats also won majority control of two other school boards in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia.

In the Pennridge School District, where Republicans are a majority of the voters, Democrats took control after months of controversy. It erupted earlier this year after the Republican-dominated school district earlier this year hired a curriculum consultant who is a graduate of Hillsdale College, a private Christian institution whose longtime president is an ally of former president Donald Trump.

Jordan Adams was hired after he worked to promote Hillsdale’s controversial 1776 Curriculum, which extols conservative values, attacks progressive ones and distorts civil rights history.

At a Moms for Liberty convention last July in Philadelphia, Adams described his consulting work as an effort to transform public education to reflect the wishes of “our side," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.On Tuesday, five open seats on the board went to Democrats.

How Hillsdale College-affiliated charter schools spread

In Iowa, Moms for Liberty endorsed 13 candidates in school board races but only one was victorious — in the small Interstate 35 district with three schools. 

In the city of Marion, voters rejected all three candidates endorsed by Moms for Liberty to join the Linn-Mar school board, which oversees the district of some 7,700 students. The four candidates who won seats on the board had focused on operational challenges to the school district, including budget issues and staff retention.

In central Ohio, most candidates for nearly three-dozen school board races who had been endorsed by Moms for Liberty and other like-minded groups lost their races. The Minnesota Reformer news organization posted a story on its website with the headline, “Conservative candidates underwhelm in suburban school board races,” after the right-leaning Minnesota Parents Alliance endorsed 44 candidates in 20 districts and saw most of them lose.

Exactly where these results leave the Moms for Liberty agenda is unclear. Descovich said the group is already gearing up for 2024 school board elections and is considering making statewide endorsements.

“If we measure impact by the noise and controversy an organization stirs up, then M4L’s effect on U.S. education politics is unmistakable. Arguably, no organization has had such a visible presence in local education politics in recent years,” Jon Valant, director of the Brookings Institution Brown Center on Education Policy wrote in October with three co-authors. “However, whether Moms for Liberty succeeds in transforming school board politics and changing policies remains to be seen.”

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