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conservative school board strategy

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conservative school board strategy

This is Education Briefing, a weekly update on the most important news in US education. Sign up here to receive this newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Today, we see how Republicans are trying to use school boards and critical race theory to mobilize their voters. And we explore a free speech debate that is dividing the world of science.


Once upon a time, school boards were engulfed in the slumber of local government, where members of the community concerned volunteered their time to debate things like budgets and calendars.

Those days seem long ago.

The change started with the coronavirus pandemic. For more than a year, angry parents have held crowded meetings to shout about the mask mandate or distance learning.

Now, the conversation has turned to race, especially with fears that school boards are introducing important race principles to the curriculum. Some conservative activists and politicians are using these concerns to call back school boards and rally their voters in statewide elections.

In 2021, Ballotpedia, a non-partisan political encyclopedia, said it had tracked 80 such attempts against 207 board members. This is the highest number since tracking began in 2010. The parents then run for seats, and often win.

Several elections are due next week, on November 2.

In Virginia, Republicans are making schools the focus of their eventual push to take over the governor’s office, hoping they can overcome their frustrations about mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations and what their children are being taught. About will rally the conservatives.

Republicans see the school board race as a way to back white suburban districts, which have shifted toward Democrats over the past eight years. In Wisconsin, a crucial swing state that President Biden won by just 20,600 votes, the crucial race theory may be a significant swing issue.

My colleague Stephanie Saul reports that some Republican activists and politicians are hoping to use a school board election in the Macon-Thiensville district, a Milwaukee suburb, to lay the foundation for the 2022 midterm elections.

Traditionally, school board elections in Wisconsin have been fair. But with the midterms on the horizon, potential statewide Republican candidates are drilling, including former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Clayfish, who is running for governor, and Senator Ron Johnson, who has not announced whether or not he will run for re-election. No.

Both have emphasized opposition to the critical race theory, and both have championed the local school board race.

Johnson recently urged constituents to “withdraw our school boards, our county boards, our city councils.”

And a political action committee involving Clayfish recently contributed about 30 candidates from across the state. Clayfish’s campaign has helped support the campaign of at least four school board members in Macon-Thiensville.

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Chris Schultz, a retired teacher at Macon, is one of four school board members facing a recall there. She gave up her Republican Party membership when she joined the board. Now, she thinks the non-partisanship is over.

“The Republican Party has made such a decision that they want to not only have their say on the school board but set the direction of the school districts,” Schultz said. “The fact that this is being driven politically is heartbreaking.”

The sometimes heated conversation about freedom of speech and academics on American campuses usually docks in the humanities and social sciences.

The debate spread to science this month, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology canceled a prestigious public lecture by a prominent geophysicist after faculty members and students raised concerns about his views on affirmative action.

Here is the background.

Dorian Abbott, a professor at the University of Chicago, studies climate change and whether distant planets may harbor environments conducive to life. Abbott, who is white, has previously stated that diversity programs “treat people as members of a group, not as individuals, reiterating the mistake that made the atrocities of the 20th century possible.”

He supports a diverse pool of applicants selected on the basis of merit, and supports away heritage admissions – which gives preferred admission to the children of alumni – and athletic scholarships.

Although his lectures would have made no mention of his views on affirmative action, his opponents in science argued that they represented an “unfair” and oppressive alternative.

So after protests, MIT canceled the talks. Q: Another firearm.

First, an impressive program at Princeton invited Abbott to speak on the same day as the canceled lecture.

Then, the director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, announced that he would resign from his position. He had tried to persuade colleagues to invite Abbott to speak, and thus reaffirmed the importance of separating science from politics.

“There are some institutional principles that we have to keep sacred,” said David Romps, who is also a professor of climate physics.

Questions about those institutional principles – and how sacred they can be – have begun to engulf STEM.

Already, some fields have seen scientific terms and names as offensive by some. There is also a growing call for “quotable justice,” which means both deliberately footnotes to the more scholarly work of color and not citing research from those who hold distasteful views. Some departments have taken stock of their racial diversity, or lack thereof.

And while some faculty members still believe that STEM should be kept separate from cultural debate, a growing number believe that conversations about identity and racial inequalities are more urgent than questions of ambiguous speech.

The abbot, surprisingly, disagrees with that take.

“There is no doubt that these controversies would have a negative impact on my scientific career,” he said. “But I don’t want to live in a country where instead of discussing something difficult, we go and have a silent debate.”

  • A key FDA advisory panel recommended that regulators authorize Pfizer-BioNtech’s coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, bringing nearly 28 million children closer to becoming eligible for the shots.

  • My colleague Sarah Maslin Neer spoke with several public school employees New York who lost their jobs after refusing vaccination.

  • A federal judge ruled in favor of a mask mandate in one Tennessee School District.

  • ohio Will adjust its quarantine recommendations in an effort to keep more students in classes.

  • Later Minnesota With the first student death from Covid-19 recorded this year, members of the state’s teachers’ union are demanding more protection. Two staff members also died in the same week.

  • School bands are rehearsing again, though sometimes in masks.



Many thanks again to all of you for your thoughtful reflections on lovely children’s books. We would love to hear from you again. What are some of your family’s most successful homework strategies?

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