Commentary: Parent and School Board Tensions Could Be Eased by School Choice

Young girl in pink long sleeve writing

Public education has been under the microscope lately, especially since many states shut down in-person learning last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. With children learning from home via technology, many parents had the chance to hear what their children’s teachers were saying—and they didn’t always like it. In fact, many were downright disturbed by what public schools were teaching their children.

Parents should not be forced to sit by and watch as their children get indoctrinated with progressive ideas they don’t agree with. Assuming it is legitimate for the government—that is, the taxpayers—to fund education, the government should distribute those funds directly to parents in the form of vouchers and allow them to choose where to educate their children. Not only would this allow for more choice in schools, but it would also reduce much of the conflict we are seeing today between parents and school boards across the country.

A common response to voucher proposals is that they would allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send their children to private religious schools, thus violating separation of church and state. In other words, atheists and progressives argue that they should not have to financially support schools that teach students religious worldviews.

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Scottsdale School Board President Stripped of Title, Refuses to Resign

Jann-Michael Greenburg

The head of the Scottsdale Unified School District has lost his gavel after his peers have voted to strip him of his title and asked for his resignation, which he flatly refused.

Jann-Michael Greenburg is under investigation by school district officials and the Scottsdale Police Department for his alleged involvement in keeping and sharing a set of online files containing personal information of parents who opposed the board’s COVID-19 mitigations, including information on some of their children. 

Greenburg’s father, Michael Greenburg, was listed as the owner of the files before they were taken from public view, according to the Scottsdale Independent.

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Parents Allege Arizona School Disregarded Opt-Out from ‘Gruesome’ Curriculum

The parents of a seventh-grade student in an Arizona school district claimed that a teacher disregarded an “opt-out” from an assignment while speaking before a school board Thursday.

“After being made aware of inappropriate racial and political content being taught in our daughter’s seventh-grade social studies class, we reached out to the teacher, then the principal, then the curriculum department, and finally the superintendent to obtain curriculum for us to review ahead of time,” Amy Souza told the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board in a video posted to Twitter by Free to Learn.

After relating how she and her husband finally obtained the curriculum following “exhaustive efforts to get it,” they determined an upcoming lesson would be “gruesome, violent, and inappropriate” for their daughter.

They emailed their concerns to the teacher, announcing they would “opt out” of that lesson. They stated in the video that the teacher emailed back, agreeing to an alternate assignment.

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Three Charged in Alleged Election Fraud in 2020 Election

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has charged three women with crimes related to attempted voter fraud in the 2020 general election.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Nessel argued the charges show that when “rare” election fraud happens, the current safeguards stop it.

“These cases highlight the scrutiny applications and ballots undergo throughout the election process, as well as the thorough investigative process that ensues when instances of attempted fraud are suspected,” Nessel said in a statement.

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Minnesota Student Reading and Math Scores Suffer During COVID-19

Statewide assessment results for 2021 show declines in the number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards compared to 2019 after a year of virtual learning and disruptions from COVID-19.

In math, 44% of students in grades three to eight and 11 who took the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) or Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) met or exceeded grade-level standards, down from 55% in 2019. Student reading proficiency dropped seven percentage points to 53% from 2019, while science proficiency dropped eight percentage points to 43%.

ACCESS for ELLs (English language learners) measures students’ English language proficiency. Of the students who took the ACCESS for ELLs in 2021, 9% were proficient in English, a three percentage point decrease from 2019.

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Commentary: School Board Elections and the Impact on Critical Race Theory in America

Protestor with megaphone, talking

Over the last few months, the U.S. has engaged in intense discussion over “critical race theory.” As Americans have debated the impact of CRT, several states have banned CRT from the public school curriculum, while other states are using it as part of that curriculum. The debate over CRT’s merits or dangers has prompted ideological battles in school board elections. This article looks at the increased activism around school board elections and its broader ramifications.

Past politicization of school board elections

Though school board elections may not seem as exciting as a presidential or even congressional race, they have taken on greater importance in recent years. In 2005, the city of Dover, Pennsylvania faced a contentious court case known as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which ruled that the school district’s teaching of intelligent design violated the separation of church and state. Shortly after the trial concluded, the district held its school board elections, and all the school board members who favored the teaching of intelligent design lost their reelection bids, at least in part due to their position on the issue. The election generated much discussion.

In the early 2010s, school board races saw partisan involvement through the Tea Party movement. Generally, candidates affiliated with the Tea Party ran on platforms of greater political accountability and lower property taxes. Carl Paladino, a former Republican nominee for governor in New York, won a race for the Buffalo school board on a Tea Party-type platform. The school board later ousted Paladino for making offensive comments about former First Lady Michelle Obama.

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Mom Says School Board Threatened to Sue Her for Seeking Public Information on Critical Race Theory in Curriculum

Nicole Solas was surprised to find her name listed on the meeting agenda of her local school board, especially since it said the board was considering taking legal action against her in response to her many requests for public records.

The Rhode Island mother of two began filing records requests with the South Kingstown School District several months ago, when she learned that teachers were incorporating critical race theory and gender ideology in the curriculum.

But she didn’t expect the school board to talk about suing her.

“I was shocked,” Solas, 37, told The Daily Signal in a recent phone interview. The school board, she said, “did not tell me that [the requests were] a problem.”

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Commentary: Four Signs Parents Won’t Be Sending Their Kids Back to Public School This Fall

Student working on school work at home.

As disruptive as the 2020/2021 academic year was, it led to many positive educational changes that will be transformative and long-lasting. Most notably, parents have been re-empowered to take back the reins of their children’s education from government bureaucrats and teachers unions. Frustrated by school closures and district “Zoom schooling,” families fled public schools in droves over the past year, and there are several signs that these families won’t be returning this fall.

According to an analysis by Chalkbeat and the Associated Press, public school enrollment fell by an average of 2.6 percent across 41 states last fall, with states such as Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Mississippi dropping by more than 4 percent. These enrollment declines far exceeded any anticipated demographic changes that might typically alter public school enrollment.

How many of these students will be back in a public school classroom next year? Not as many as public school officials hoped.

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Some Majority-Black Chicago Schools Are Rejecting Calls to Remove Police from Campus

Two people looking at a computer screen

Public school officials in Chicago will let each campus decide if it will keep school resource officers for the fall.

But at least some majority black schools have indicated they want the cops in the building, with one council being accused of “upholding white supremacy.”

Ahead of the discussions and votes that will likely take place throughout the coming months, Chicago Public School students rallied to demand that the police be removed from the schools. CPS board members are appointed by the mayor, but schools have councils that can make some decisions.

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Commentary: Concerns Grow About Critical Race Theory and Fostering Healthy Solutions in Williamson County Schools

Protestor with megaphone, talking

Critical Race Theory and its potential impact on students, and the broader community, has many parents worried in Williamson County. These worries have grown ever since Fostering Healthy Solutions (FHS) was hired – by unanimous vote by the WCS school board – to do an audit of the WCS system. FHS is Shan Foster’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultancy, which he co-founded with his mother, Anita Foster, in 2017. FHS was brought in to address charges of bullying and claims of incidents of racism in the WCS. The WCS School Board has paid FHS $55,000 over 4 months to help the district “provide a safe learning environment for all students by creating a cultural strategy plan”, according to an April 28 article in the Brentwood HomePage.

Fueling WCS parents’ concerns about FHS, are controversies regarding Critical Race Theory that are erupting in other school districts nationwide. The concern being, that firms like FHS are enacting programs in the name of “Diversity”, “Equity” and “Inclusion”, but hiding behind those nice-sounding terms is a bevy of lesser known CRT-based ideas. For example, concepts such as “white privilege”, “anti-racism” and “systemic racism”, as well as a “oppressor/oppressed” framework for understanding America. Oppressor/Oppressed narratives are rooted in Neo-Marxist philosophies and are usually presented as fact to faculty and students via DEI programs, rather than academic theory.

The Tennessee Legislature just banned the teaching of CRT in schools – with Governor Bill Lee signing HB 0580/SB 0623 – which penalizes funding to any school system that teaches CRT concepts. Still, the question many Williamson County parents have is, does CRT inform the worldview of the FHS’s founders?  And does FHS intend to use CRT concepts and ideas to guide discussions about DEI should their contract be renewed in July?

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Bill Would Make Ohio State School Board Completely Elected

Rep. Miller speaks with Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) before House session

Two members of the Ohio House want the state’s board of education to be more connected to the public by reducing the number of members and eliminating nonelected members.

Eight of the current 19 members receive appointments from the governor, but House Bill 298 eliminates each of those positions when current terms expire, reducing the board to its 1995 level of 11 members.

“The State Board of Education is an important body and the members of its Board should be accountable to the voters,” Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, said. “Right now, 42% of the members of the State Board of Education are not elected and, therefore, not accountable to anyone. To have almost half the board unelected and unaccountable does not reflect the transparency and responsiveness that Ohioans need and deserve.”

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Cumberland County Board of Education Chairman Shrugs off Question About Lifting Mask Mandates in Schools

Cumberland County students and teachers are stuck wearing facial coverings for the foreseeable future after the local school board chairman cited procedure as a reason not to reconsider their mask mandates.

During an October 22 Board of Education meeting, member Anita Hale asked if the body would ever reconsider its mask mandate. A recording of the board’s videoconference meeting is available on the Cumberland County Board of Education’s Facebook page here.

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