Conservative Republicans running for school boards in North Carolina and New York overwhelmingly lost their elections Tuesday night, the latest sign that GOP efforts to wage a broad anti-LGBTQ and anti-Black war on public schools are failing.
In North Carolina, a list of five right-wing ideologues ran together in the Durham School Board’s non-partisan election, under the slogan ‘Better Board, Better Schools, Better Futures’. All hoped to overthrow the Democratic incumbents. All were defeated in a landslide.
These candidates included Joetta MacMiller, who witnessed the uprising of January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.; Curtis Hrischuk, who spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros; and Gayathri Rajaraman, who told INDY Week that she didn’t think students should learn about topics like historical racism, gender identity, or politics.
None of these five candidates has won the endorsement of Durham’s three most influential political action committees. And like INDY week put itit was probably because some of these people “could be best described with the letter Q followed by ‘Anon,'” a reference to the bonkers conspiracy theory about a shadow government of Democratic pedophiles at war with former President Donald Trump. .
In New York, right-wing school board candidates who opposed diversity training, sex and gender education, and pandemic protocols were Likewise beaten tuesday. There were at least 35 such candidates in the Capitol area alone, according to the Times Union, which largely reports on Albany and its suburbs. By late Tuesday night, 27 of them had lost and four had won, with a handful of districts still reporting results.
Those races generated a “huge wave of turnout,” The Times Union reported, which it attributed to strong parental rejection of right-wing “take back our schools” candidates.
These candidates are part of a nationwide push by conservatives to change the ideological makeup of public school boards — which they claim is necessary to keep books out of classrooms that acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ people and tackle the historical racism. Prominent Republicans and right-wing media propagated the claims of these candidates. Well-funded front groups like Moms for Liberty, which has pushed to ban “anti-American” books about Martin Luther King Jr., give money to these candidates. In some cases, GOP-led state legislatures passed laws give right-wing school board candidates an electoral advantage over Democrats.
Despite their best efforts, however, the Tories continue to falter in these races. In fact, candidates in Tuesday’s election were almost always the lowest voters in their races.
“The attempt to hide book bans and censorship as a parenting issue is not working,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “What’s happening is that the pro-public education forces – which include the overwhelming number of parents who send their children to public schools – want to have a safe, welcoming and high-quality environment for their children. They want their children to be critical thinkers. They want their children to tell fact from fiction, to learn the correct story.
This is a trend that has been playing out for months. Earlier in May, conservative candidates from school boards across Montana massively lost. Progressive School Board Candidates beaten in New Hampshire in March, even in conservative cities. In Wisconsin, results were mixed, but a number of conservative candidates lost despite heavy funding. In the town of Eau Claire, for example, the three right-wing candidates for the school board who ran on anti-LGBTQ platforms lost to the incumbents and their allies.
Weingarten said Tuesday’s election results in New York City are a good indicator of how the school board races will likely continue to play out nationally, since those elections were held in heavily conservative and heavily Democrats across the state.
“You saw the exact same results,” she said. “You saw 99% of school budgets increased, and you saw 86% of applicants that the [New York State United Teachers] approved, who were pro-public education candidates, win.
“The attempt to hide book bans and censorship as a parenting issue is not working.”
– Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
That’s not to say that school board candidates running on anti-diversity and anti-LGBTQ platforms always lose.
Earlier this month, all but one of 11 Tarrant County conservative school board candidates won their races in Texas. Here, the candidates said they would use their seats on the board to prevent students from learning about racism and LGBTQ issues, which some parents in this very conservative county have called “pornographic.”
And conservatives celebrated in November when, in Virginia, their strategy of sparking outrage against public schools teaching children critical race theory — a college-level academic discipline that examines racism as an everyday experience for people of color and not taught in K-12 public schools – helped the GOP sweep offices statewide.
But even then, bashing the idea of teaching children that structural racism has shaped the country’s legal and social systems for centuries (which, again, wasn’t even taught) was not a clear winner for Conservative school board candidates.
“Notice how quiet the right is about these elections,” Weingarten added.
“We need parents and teachers to have a greater voice in schools,” she said. “But the camouflage of an anti-public school agenda as ‘pro-parenting’ is being seen.”