It’s easy to sense a perilous political reckoning sinking over America, but the most treacherous struggles are headed for school boardrooms, not state capitols.
Republicans believe they’ve discovered the populist Holy Grail in using schools, teachers and public education as a political punching bag.
Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has branded himself the anti-public-schools czar of his state, blaming schools and teachers for a host of public ills.
The presidential contender is part of a growing trend among far-right conservatives trying to create a false narrative of secretive, insular public schools where teachers huddle in regular cabals over how to brainwash children into believing political “nonsense,” such as understanding the risks of climate change.
Increasingly, what were once far-right fringe groups promoting conspiracy theories have become mainstream conservative political agendas.
Colorado is among states being subjected to this right-wing hokum and fakery.
During the 2022 gubernatorial election, GOP nominee and University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl insisted that public schools were saddled with veritable herds of children who demanded to “present” as “furries.”
Ganahl’s claims and other complaints were widely debunked by the media and the schools themselves. The fury over flurries was a hardly coy attempt to swipe at transgender children and the challenges schools face in teaching them.
Also last year, a Republican on the State Board of Education attempted to insert a far-right political philosophy in state history curricula. As first reported by Chalkbeat, Republican Steve Durham, wanted “students to learn the false idea that the Nazis were socialists and that left-wing regimes are uniquely prone to commit genocide.”
Last week in Congress, House Republicans narrowly passed a bill promised to 2022 voters that seeks to “give parents a role in what’s taught in public schools,” according to an Associated Press report.
The farcical legislation panders to the growing far-right ruckus over schools, which has led to a flood of banned-book attempts, attacks on transgender students and bombastic attacks at school board meetings across the country.
The so-called Parents Bill of Rights Act cynically promises to wield the federal government in an attempt to deliver what parents in Aurora and across the state and nation already have: local control of schools.
The measure seeks to make public course studies and library materials, to allow parents to meet with educators at least twice a school year, speak at school board meetings and see school budgets.
Schools plead with and sometimes even have to bribe parents to come to back-to-school nights, parent-teacher meetings and other community functions.
Parents in school districts such as Aurora Public Schools can call ahead and even have translators available to them at school board meetings, to speak or just to observe.
Not only are school district budgets available online in school districts across the state, finite details about the plight of teacher pay and school spending are absolutely transparent — with just a few clicks of the mouse.
The “Parent Bill of Rights Act” is a ruse. What these far-right Republicans want, as outlined by Colorado’s own GOP extremist Congressperson Lauren Boebert, is to forbid schools to address concerns by transgender children and their parents, to end sex-education in schools, to end the ability of the federal government to ensure disabled children and girls receive equal treatment in all public schools, and to ensure extremists like state school board members Steve Durham are successful in forcing schools to teach partisan propaganda and not academics in history classes.
Public schools are under extreme pressure to help millions of children recover from lost-learning caused by the pandemic. And in thousands of places like Aurora, the community will almost certainly be targeting schools as the nexus for student mental health care and systems to reduce juvenile gun violence.
Residents should push back to local members of congress and the state legislature who seek to perpetuate this false far-right narrative endangering public schools and education.
Control of schools are local, and they need to stay that way.