Republican efforts to take over local school boards and install right-wing candidates to attack critical race theory were largely a bust in this month's elections, according to an analysis by POLITICO, which reported that recent "school board candidates who ran culture-war campaigns flamed out."
"Democrats and teachers’ unions boasted candidates they backed in Midwestern suburbs trounced their opponents in the once-sleepy races. The winning record, they said, was particularly noticeable in elections where conservative candidates emphasized agendas packed with race, gender identity and parental involvement in classrooms," reported Juan Perez Jr. "While there’s no official overall tally of school board results in states that held an array of elections on April 4, two conservative national education groups did not dispute that their candidates posted a losing record."
This came during the same election that saw progressive Brandon Johnson win the election for mayor of Chicago, and saw liberals gain a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time in over a decade.
“Where culture war issues were being waged by some school board candidates, those issues fell flat with voters,” said National Education Association union leader Kim Anderson. “The takeaway for us is that parents and community members and voters want candidates who are focused on strengthening our public schools, not abandoning them.” Conversely, Ryan Gidursky, who runs a right-wing PAC backed by GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein, said of school board races, “We lost more than we won.”
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Historically, polls have shown voters trust Democrats more than Republicans on education issues. Republicans began an offensive strategy to try to compete on education after 2021, when GOP businessman Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia largely by attacking his opponent as hostile to parental rights over school curriculum. Surveys last year suggested that Republicans had gained an advantage on education with voters in 62 battleground districts; but more recent polling this February indicated Democrats reclaiming a double-digit lead on the issue.
This comes amid heightened national scrutiny on GOP school policies that have censored discussion of race or sexuality, with viral video footage showing school library shelves in Florida emptied of books by administrators fearful of new rules.