By now, many news outlets have carried stories about extremist school board candidates. We have many school board candidates on record from their social media and even at actual school board meetings spouting hateful rhetoric at our teachers, students, and administrators. We have candidates still denying the harm of the Pandemic and science. However, there is a bigger issue that many aren’t pointing out, and that is that many of the school board candidates have no idea what goes on inside a public school
Everyday our teachers are faced with enormous challenges and they meet those challenges to make a positive learning space for our children. Underpaid school personnel stay late when kids miss the bus or buses are late. They take complicated subjects and break them down to help students learn. They meet students where they are and help them achieve more than they thought possible. Our public schools are doing amazing work everyday. When school board candidates fail to celebrate our public schools as well as talk about the challenges, I know they’re unqualified for the job.
Our schools do indeed face challenges. In North Carolina, our courts ruled that our children are not getting a sound basic education and they’ve placed funding benchmarks that our state needs to provide to get us back on track. The underfunding of our schools is no longer a debate, it is an adjudicated fact. Instead of talking about the systemic underfunding of our schools or the inequities in funding, I hear candidates accuse our local schools of mismanagement and fraud with no evidence. They pledge to cut administrative staff that have nowhere left to cut. Too many candidates don’t even have a basic understanding of how schools are funded and how those funds are used.
Finally, when candidates offer solutions to problems that either don’t exist or don’t exist in a way that they understand. Take Special Education for instance, I heard a school board candidate Michele Morrow offer suggestions that we should be teaching life skills and job skills as if we don’t already do those things. The same board candidate even suggested removing special education students from general classrooms because they’re contributing to teaching mediocrity. None of this is legal or true. We have enormous issues to overcome when it comes to Special Education, and the last thing we need is someone spouting ableist garbage getting in the way.
I don’t expect every person who runs for school board to be an expert in education, but they should be striving to understand and know as much as they can with accurate information. I expect candidates to be involved in our public schools in some capacity even if it’s being their biggest cheerleader. Belief in public schools as a public good as well as investing in our children should be a baseline in which all candidates on both sides agree. Sadly the fact that not all candidates see our public schools as a positive is one of the biggest dangers facing public schools today.