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School board races get national attention as Youngkin mulls endorsements

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School board races get national attention as Youngkin mulls endorsements
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Midterm elections are heating up across the nation, but it’s not just House and Senate races getting the attention. School board elections from Florida to Pennsylvania to Texas are getting endorsements from national political action committees and governors as the politics of education continues to weigh on the minds of parents. 

The 1776 Project PAC raised over $2 million this year and endorsed candidates in 100 races across the country. The conservative group has already seen success in 15 races in Texas and 35 in Florida, according to the group. Founder Ryan Girdusky told Fox News he’s confident they’ll continue to see victories in other states in November. 

“Conservative candidates for school board definitely have momentum going into the midterms on education,” said Girdusky. “Parents are deeply worried not only about the trans issue and CRT but overall about the movement progressives are taking education when it comes to abolishing merit and specialized high schools. Parents spend a large amount of time, energy and money ensuring that their kids have the best opportunity; liberals have overstepped by insisting on taking that away from their children in the name of equity.”

Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed several candidates in school board races in August, and he said the education issue has continued to motivate voters in his state. 

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“I think the left has gone so radical on this,” DeSantis told Sean Hannity on Monday. “They want to use the schools to indoctrinate our kids. And that’s not what the American people want. They think schools should be to educate kids, not to indoctrinate them.”

In Loudoun County, Virginia, there are two school board seats up for a special election this cycle. On Wednesday, some candidates participated in a forum to discuss the issues. Two of the candidates refused to attend, saying it was an ideological event.

“While both my opponents spend their time pandering to an organization that has championed hate against our LGBT students and their families, I am spending my time in our community, talking to students, teachers, and families about school infrastructure, literacy curriculum, and STEM programs,” said Nicholas Gothard, who is running in the Broad Run district. “Loudoun deserves an effective and driven leader with a track record of success, not someone who will perpetuate failed culture war narratives. I know Loudoun voters are smart enough to know which candidate truly shares their values, and that’s why I’m confident we will win in November.”

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Parental rights, district policies on gender identity, and communication between school leaders and parents were the main focus. Candidates said that those like Gothard, whom the local Democratic Party has endorsed, aren’t listening to parents. 

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting about critical race theory in Ashburn, Virginia, on June 22, 2021.
Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting about critical race theory in Ashburn, Virginia, on June 22, 2021.
(Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein, File)

“We are in the mess that we are in because we have a school board right now with a majority of members that are not creating policies, implementing policies that are in the best interest of children and their families,” said Tiffany Polifko, who is running against Gothard.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, whose win last fall has been attributed to his focus on education issues, told Fox News he’s looking at endorsing in the Loudoun County race.

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“School boards matter very much,” he said. “I think we’ll continue to review it and make some decisions shortly.”

Some groups are pushing back on what they see as the politicization of students. Campaign for Our Shared Future, a nonprofit focused on fighting back against attacks on public education, told Fox News it’s important to elect school board members who keep politics out of the schools entirely. 

“Across the country extremists and opportunistic politicians are manufacturing controversies to sow distrust, promote outrage and advance their personal agenda,” said Heather Harding, the executive director of the Campaign for Our Shared Future. “Instead of student-centered and locally-focused discussions about education, our children are now caught in the crossfire of divisive culture wars.”

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In Loudoun County, Democrats said they felt confident the candidates they endorsed have been connecting with parents and students despite criticism from conservatives that they wanted to separate parents from students.

“We are going back to the issues and the schools and taking away that political aspect,” said Lissa Savaglio, the chairwoman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee. 

On a national level, candidates running for the House or Senate said they’re hoping the debate around school board seats will drive turnout in their races as well. Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, which includes Loudoun County, is a competitive seat this cycle. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton is defending her seat against Republican challenger Hung Cao, a retired Navy captain. Cao said he thinks energy surrounding the school board election will motivate voters to turn out for him as well. 

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“When I came from Vietnam, my parents taught me that at any moment, they can take away your money and your position, but they can never take away the knowledge in your head that’s lost forever. And that’s why education was so important for our family,” he said. 

Wexton did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

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