Until the COVID-19 pandemic introduced contentious debates over mask-wearing and safety measures, school boards and their meetings weren’t particularly partisan. In Florida the situation is now reaching critical mass in school board meetings, largely owing to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ support for conservative school board candidates who embraced his fascist agenda.
DeSantis endorsed and donated to the campaigns of more than two dozen school board candidates—along with groups such as The 1776 Project, “the first national PAC specifically launched to boost school board candidates opposed to [critical race theory] CRT,” and Moms for Liberty, a group deeply embroiled in school board contests, Axios reports.
Now those new board members have taken their seats, and according to Politico, they’re going after educators and administrators with a history of supporting COVID-19 mask mandates, those who have refused to support the board’s ongoing and ridiculous opposition to teaching CRT (which, as we continue to report, has never been taught outside of college-level law courses), and those who do not oppose any mention of LGBTQ or gender identity in classroom subject matter.
RELATED STORY: DeSantis is throwing his support behind conservative school board candidates. It’s unheard of
Politico reports that superintendents in two Republican-leaning counties and another in Broward County were fired by five board members who were appointed by DeSantis; three superintendents in November were given the boot by board members with connections to DeSantis.
“We had a wave in school districts that spit in parents’ faces … And now the people who did that are gone,” Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay told Politico about educators who pushed mask mandates.
In Brevard and Sarasota counties, school administrators are offering to leave versus facing the recent conservative takeover of their local school boards, which will likely result in a vote determining whether they’re fired or not.
Monday, Superintendent Brennan Asplen was one of those who offered up a resignation. “I have a feeling I’m going to be fired after tonight because I just can’t hold this back,” he said, according to Politico.
“You have to get the politics out of this school district…This school district could be No. 1, but we shoot ourselves in the foot every single time. We are getting in our own way all the time,” Asplen said.
In June, Christian Ziegler, vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida, told Politico, “People are frustrated with the business-as-usual on these school boards,” and when it comes to school board elections, he added, “Payback is coming in August.” Ziegler’s wife, Bridget, was endorsed by DeSantis.
During his time in office, DeSantis, who’s predicted to run for president in 2024, has legislated a “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees,” aka the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which bans teaching CRT. He’s even targeted some math books, claiming the content contains “indoctrination” or “exposure to dangerous and divisive concepts.” In math.
As for potential school board candidates, they were being asked to take DeSantis’ education survey to make sure their views jibe with the governor’s right-wing agenda of rejecting CRT and COVID lockdowns and supporting “Keep Woke Gender Ideology Out of Schools,” to name a few. They were then asked to pledge to “stand with Governor Ron DeSantis.”
But the scary thing is that Florida isn’t the only place where conservatism has taken hold in our school system.
In mid-November, the Berkeley County, South Carolina, school board fired Superintendent Deon Jackson in a vote of 6-3 from his job of 16 months. Six of the members, according to The Post and Courier, were endorsed by Berkeley County Republican Party during the Nov. 8 election. All voted to fire Jackson, the district’s first Black superintendent. Several teachers and administrators left the room on the day the meeting was held to terminate Jackson.
The Post and Courier reports that the same day Jackson was fired, the board also voted 6-2 to pass a ban on the teaching of CRT throughout the district and to form a committee to review materials in the school district deemed by new board members to be pornographic.
Thankfully, liberal groups such as Red, Wine & Blue, the Florida Freedom to Read Project, and Defense of Democracy have taken up the battle against the tsunami of conservatism in the nation’s school boards. These parent-backed groups have begun backing progressive candidates for boards and raising money, and as NBC News reports, begun training parents to defend diversity programs and curriculum around LGBTQ lesson plans and books on race and history.
Bottom line: If you've ever considered running for office in your community, there's a school board near you that could use your help!
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