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Texas voters elected a slew of conservative candidates to Texas school boards on Saturday, emboldening the state’s Republicans who are increasingly involved in nonpartisan local elections.
GOP leaders describe the victories as parents rejecting what they call leftist ideologies — and supporting notions that critical race theory is taught in schools and that children have access to overly sexualized books. And the school board campaign promises to rid schools of critical race theory after the Texas legislature last year passed a law limiting how race, slavery history and current affairs are taught in schools. It was dubbed the “critical race theory” bill, even though the legislation never mentioned the term.
“Republicans have dominated school board races across Texas because parents are sick of left-wing garbage,” said Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi, who declined to be interviewed for this story but did. provided a statement. “The Republican Party of Texas will continue to support education over indoctrination and plans to expand our efforts in local, nonpartisan races.”
But greater GOP involvement in local politics may not be the only effect of Saturday’s election. Experts believe that campaigning on the culture wars is a winning strategy for the GOP. And, they say, it will encourage Republicans to keep passing laws based on political issues in next year’s legislative session.
“The state party wants to continue to ride this wave,” said Rebecca Deen, professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Teachers and public education experts have repeatedly pointed out that critical race theory — a college-level concept that examines how racism shapes laws and policies — is not taught in public kindergarten schools. in 12th grade. And many of the books targeted for removal from school libraries in recent months tell the stories of LGBTQ characters and people of color.
But Texas Republicans are following a national playbook of feeding conservative parents’ fears that “critical race theory” is being taught in public schools and children are being exposed to lewd sexual content.
Conservative school board candidates won victories across the state, but most importantly, they won big in Tarrant County, which has strayed from its perch as one of the reddest urban counties in ‘America. The county had 10 candidates who won their races with support from the conservative Patriot Mobile Action PAC, which donated half a million dollars to the races.
In the Lake Travis Independent School District in northwest Austin, the three conservative candidates backed by the Lake Travis Families PAC won school board seats. And in Katy, a suburb of Houston, a candidate promising to “remove graphic and vulgar books” and “resist efforts to sexualize our children at an early age” easily defeated his opponents.
The Texas GOP parade the school board wins as a victory for the party. The state party says it is battling to elect conservative candidates from governor all the way to the school board.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who is seeking a third term in November, has says that the “power of parents will continue to expand”. He is campaigning for his support for a so-called “parental bill of rights,” even though parents already have such rights spelled out in the state education code.
Days after the recent school board races, Abbott voiced support for a long-sought goal that eluded Texas conservatives: giving parents the option to send their children to private school “with funding from the State according to the student”.
Critics of so-called school vouchers say they hurt public schools because they divert state funding from public school districts.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick echoed Abbott’s support for such vouchers.
“Texas has over 5 million students in our public school system. That’s more students than some states have people,” Patrick said in a news release this week. “We can support school choice and, at the same time, create the best public education system in America. These questions are not in conflict with each other.
Patrick also wants the Texas Legislature to pass legislation next year that mirrors Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which is a conservative push to limit classroom discussion about LGBTQ people. Both Abbott and Patrick have made parental rights a priority as they both seek re-election in November.
Patrick did not immediately respond to an interview request. Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, a figurehead in recent Conservative politics, did not respond to a request for an interview. State Rep. Keith Bell, R-Forney, co-author of the state’s first Critical Race Theory Act, did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, who serves on the House public education committee, said lawmakers next year will need to focus on the real issues facing the public education system. faced, such as learning loss due to COVID-19, teacher shortage and mental health issues, he said.
“The problems that schools have faced over the past two years have nothing to do with what [Republican] the party is focused on,” Bernal said. “I give them credit for fabricating these issues to distract from the real and great ones we face.”
Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, said the Republican Party was showing it was more interested in ideological politics than material aid to public school systems.
Robison suspects that the conservative candidates who won those school board races will lobby Austin on ideological issues such as parental rights and school vouchers.
“The legislature needs to focus on this ideology and reset it on the actual funding of public education,” he said.
Disclosure: The Texas State Teachers Association and the University of Texas – Arlington financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporations sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here.
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