The Star Democrat

Parents go after union strangleho­ld on school boards

- BETSY MCCAUGHEY Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of NewYork and author of “The Next Pandemic,” available at Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndic

Parents who never imagined running for office battled to win seats on local school boards last week; they won some, but lost many. Their fiercest opponents were the teachers unions.

The media portrayed these school board races as culture wars, but more than anything they were struggles by parents to wrest control of the boards from self-serving unions. For decades, the unions have maintained a tight grip on who gets elected. No wonder school district deci- sions — about budgets, masking, COVID closures, curriculum and teacher contracts — protect teachers first. Never mind what’s best for kids.

That needs to change. Albuquerqu­e, New Mexico, winning candidate Courtney Jackson told a local newspaper, “the board of education should be the kids’ union,” not a puppet of the teachers union. Jackson decided to run after watching the board discuss when to end lockdowns. The discussion focused entirely on what teachers wanted, never addressing the kids’ needs. “Their interests were not brought up once,” she said.

When the results were in, the president of the Albuquerqu­e Teachers Federation predicted “a new dynamic on the board,” with some members actually disagreein­g with the school district’s employees. Imagine that.

In Colorado’s cities, including

Denver and Steamboat Springs, union slates won handily. But in Douglas County, Aurora County and Greeley Evans School District 6, challenger­s outspent the union and broke its monopoly on school board seats. Many school districts will elect board members sometime in the spring, instead of on Election Day. That’s by design to keep the public in the dark that an election is even happening, and to discourage turnout.

Parents and other concerned citizens have roughly half a year to gird for these upcoming contests. For anyone who has a child in public school, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

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