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AMERICANS TEND tend to believe that people in local politics and bureaucracy are ordinary boring people doing regular boring jobs.
However, after the 2020 racial protests, many faced a reckoning. They started feeling that people sitting on school boards were ideologues, not public servants.
Let’s use a very conservative state as an example: Missouri.
The Show-Me State voted +16% for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, and Republicans hold almost all central statewide offices.
However, many school boards in the state have pushed for controversial DEI — critical race theory-inspired programs.
For example, Greene County, where Springfield is located, voted 20%+ republican. However, the Springfield Public Schools pushed a controversial DEI program that claimed that the “Springfield Public Schools is built on the ancestral territory of the Osage, Delaware and Kickapoo Nations and Peoples” and asked the teachers to “acknowledge the dark history and violence against Native and Indigenous People” before engaging in the day’s program of “social justice work.”
Afterward, teachers had to watch a nine-minute video of “George Floyd’s last words” after following a schedule of oppression, white supremacy, and systemic racism where teachers had to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix” and claimed that those at the top of the matrix were responsible for the oppression of disfavored groups.
Wentzville is another highly Republican area of the state, with a +17 difference in the 2020 election. There, the school district had created a question that was criticized as “partisan and divisive” in a high school quiz, saying that:
“Teresa has heard in the news about the fatal shooting of unarmed African American men by police officers but does not think it is necessary due to racism. Teresa is MOST likely a:
- Black woman.
- Democrat-leaning woman.”
These are just two examples of hundreds that have been shown across the country and have been brought to the spotlight by people such as Chris Rufo or the famous Twitter account Libs of TikTok. These examples show that far-left activists are leading school boards and school districts across the country —even in solidly conservative areas.
Ryan Girdusky and the 1776 Project PAC
But there are many pushing back. Ryan Girdusky is one of them. Girdusky is the man behind the 1776 Project PAC, the only national school board political action committee.
It is intended to fund conservative candidates across the country “who are concerned about things like critical race theory, transparency in school, the transgender nonsense happening to a lot of our schools, reading material that may be inappropriate for young children, things of that nature. We basically use the democratic system to promote candidates who believe in those values,” Girdusky told El American.
Girdusky was one of many Americans that noticed the deep indoctrination of American schools amid the pandemic and the George Floyd protests.
“I come from a very large extended family. A lot of them were learning from home like most people were in the United States. And the parents were for the very first time seeing what their children are being exposed to on a day-to-day basis. And they said to me, ‘what can be done about this? This is actually really much worse than we thought it was’. And it was actually when that happened, that I thought that school boards are the only means to have real change at the local level, so let’s invest in school board races. I created the PAC for that reason. We invested in 58 elections in our first year and 142 in the second. We had a very strong showing of almost 75% wins so far this year. We’ve invested in 27 races and we won 20 of them,” he told El American.
The PAC has won in both heavily Republican and deep blue areas, which shows that the interest to keep far-left ideology out of the classrooms is not solely a conservative concern. “We’ve won certainly in Republican strongholds like Leavenworth County, Kansas, but we’ve also won in very blue areas. We won elections in Montgomery, Pennsylvania, which has not voted for a Republican president in decades. It’s a place that voted for Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.” Girdusky said.
And one of those candidates was John Pérez, an engineer of Mexican origin that ran for the 6th position of the board of trustees for the Spring Branch Independent School District —a heavily conservative area on the west side of Houston with around thirty-five thousand students.
“I have two sets of twins, two 18-year-olds and two 14-year-olds, and I usually tell them there’s not much merit in complaining if you don’t come up with solutions. But I was getting to the point where I was hearing myself complain too much without bringing solutions to the table, and one of my daughters actually told me one day ‘what are you going to do about it?’” Pérez told El American.
“And that’s a sobering moment. Because then you realize you probably need to get some skin in the game. And then my brother-in-law was listening to a radio show where Ryan Girdusky was interviewed speaking about the 1776 Project and called me and told me to check this guy out.”
Pérez and Girdusky share a common goal: taking far-left activism and activism without any other adjectives out of schools.
“School board elections shouldn’t be partisan. They shouldn’t be political. At the end of the day, I think what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to serve the students and serve the educational system. And traditionally, that really hasn’t required those elections to be partisan. You haven’t had to bring kind of conservative/liberal, blue/red politics into it. I think what’s driving the need for perhaps some partisan politics to emerge are really some of the issues, such as critical race theory,” Pérez told El American.
“Because they’ve committed themselves to the ideology of critical race theory so heavily, you’re seeing they’re even bringing back forms of segregation that are outrageous to voters. And I think that that is something that people are really getting winded up and getting outraged by and actually getting energetic with. So, I think once this becomes more magnified and people see and hear about it more frequently, then we will know about it,” Girdusky said.
School boards and CRT
Of course, there’s the common criticism that CRT is seldom taught in schools but is a conspiracy theory created by conservative activists. But results in school board races seem to point out otherwise.
Solely in 2021, conservative activists and parents have launched 50 recalls unseating 126 school board members. Most of these efforts began with objections to Covid-19 policies in schools. Still, the most recent of them was more connected with concerns about critical race theory, including the contentious race in Loudoun County, Virginia.
“I often tell people that critical race theory is not taught so much as practiced. There is a much bigger difference. So, this is about trying to put an end to the practice of CRT in schools. Ending things like privilege walks in schools where they basically separate the people based not on their own individualism, but them as collective racial discrimination in schools and in testing where white and Asian kids will test enormously higher and not get placed in schools,” Girdusky said.
“And at the end of the day, it’s now falling onto the shoulders of superintendents and teachers and principals and school boards to muddle through these issues and define policies and make sure that we’re serving our students the best we can,” Pérez added.
“And the way I see my job now as an elected trustee is to kind of be that rational mind that says, okay, here’s what our state requires us to teach in our classrooms. How can we do that? And at the same time, keep politics out of our classroom. And I think both sides would like to see that, right? There’s a liberal out there. They don’t want to see kind of Christian conservative politics coming into the classroom. But then if there’s a strong conservative Christian, they don’t necessarily want to see the progressive liberal stuff coming in,” he said.
“We want to support and protect merit. Merit is very important, and we want to end racial exclusivism in schools. We fight against the creeping equity going through schools. So those are some of the enormous things we’re working on,” Girdusky added.
Are Republicans late to the local politics party?
Democrats have been heavily funding local political races for a while. DA races and school boards are the most common targets, among many others, thanks to the funds of generous progressive billionaires such as George Soros. That’s how they’ve achieved to seat ideologues and activists in even conservative areas.
But it seems conservatives might be pushing back. Defund the Police DA, Chesa Boudin, was recalled a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco, to name a single example.
And people like Ryan Girdusky are trying to effect grassroots policy changes. When asked if he thinks his strategy is a reverse of George Soros, Girdusky laughs and says, “I wish I had that budget, but I don’t.”
“I got my career started in local politics. I’m a very big fan of local politics. And most of the things that will affect your life daily in America are not done at the federal level. They’re just not. It’s the people at the local level to ensure that the streets are clean, the police are working, the essential services are there, that your quality of life is higher and that your schools are good,” he said.
“DA elections, state legislative elections, all those are all extremely important to sit there and invest time and energy in because local politics matter a lot to your life.”
But even if they are doing better, he believes Republicans are not paying enough attention to local races. “We have raised a decent sum of money. We are able to compete nationwide, but we’re coming up against unions and left-wing billionaires. And I think that right now, the question for a lot of Republican voters is they’re so used to not donating because they can sit there and watch cable news or tweet or whatever the case is and feel like they’re contributing.”
And even if a couple of hundred races sound like a lot, the impact is relatively small when one considers that there are thousands of school board seats across the U.S. Thus, Girdusky has tried to focus on winnable, larger districts.
“Probably millions of children nationwide are in a school district where the school board is majority conservative because we supported them. What I look at as far as in terms of our success is if you look at, for example, Leavenworth, Kansas, and they just passed a parent’s Bill of Rights, which allows full curriculum transparency. In Douglas County, Colorado, their superintendent left after being forced to review the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policy. That’s a measure of success,” he said.
Still, Girdusky is hopeful that Republicans can achieve great success by overhauling public education.
“I believe a good public education is a right of all citizens, and it’s something worth investing in and worth protecting in. And it is the great place where the melting pot is created in America, where everyone, if you are born in this country or if you come here at a very early age, it is through the public education system that we create a common culture and a common sense of civic duty.”
Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_