Imagine a world where the Moms for Liberty and like-minded individuals were elected to the school board, state legislature, and governorship in your state. Imagine a world where our schools were plundered for funding, teachers abandoned the profession, and our kids were left to pay the price.
This is a semi-fictional tale taken from real world events in schools and school districts from across the country where people failed to vote in support of their teachers, students, and schools. Check the links to see real-life examples from around the country--you might see your own school district.
There is an important election in Virginia on November 7th. Do your research and vote wisely, or this could be your school, your teachers, your family.
In January 2024, new school boards, legislators, and governors were installed across the country. They were swept in because of voter apathy, fear, and resignation, combined with a 3-year long Ed Scare campaign and dark money donors that fomented fear, anger, and action over manufactured panics about education.
Some of these newly elected Ed Scare candidates were vocally endorsed by far right groups like Moms for Liberty or Moms for America, while others were sneakier: they wore lavender, pretended to be “moderate,” and their campaign literature contained great swaths of blue to confuse voters into thinking they were democrats or independents. Some Ed Scare candidates carried book bags holding frequently challenged books to scare parents into voting against their public schools.
Many candidates, particularly in suburban areas, eliminated the obvious right-wing rhetoric from their platforms because they found that full-throated bigotry and exclusion of LGBTQIA kids didn’t play well with voters in 2022. Not only that, but some training by right-wing suburban candidates included directions to AVOID culture wars or book banning to hide their true agendas.
Often, it was more about what they didn’t say, than what they said. They spoke of accountability, but never students. They spoke of indoctrination, but never history. They spoke of bathrooms, but never LGBTQIA student rights. They spoke of CRT, but not inclusion.
As soon as these Ed Scare candidates were installed in office, they started checking things off their right-wing to-do list: undermine faith in public schools, weaken the education system, remove the rights of the majority of parents, defund programs and schools, target students and teachers, and replace curricula with indoctrination.
First they eliminated Accountability to the Community
For school districts inundated by these Ed Scare candidates, things went bad fast. Even for those school districts with just one or two Ed Scare electeds, everything on the School Board came to a standstill, due to incompatible priorities and deadlocked voting. No votes could be cast, no policy could be made, and no budgets were passed.
These Ed Scare candidates ran on accountability, but that was a smokescreen because once in office, they refused to respond to constituents, be held accountable to the public, or follow local and state regulations and policies. “Accountability for thee, but not for me” was their mantra.
At first it was small things, like reducing public comment to once a month or silencing critical comments from the public, but then it extended to installing kill switches to cut off any public input at school board meetings that ran counter to their views. It was ironic that the free speech absolutists limited and eliminated free speech, but no one could complain and few media outlets were brave enough to cover the outrage.
But very soon, they started messing with the budget, playing chicken with teacher salaries and school funding, thus infuriating the Board of Supervisors that oversees the school district budget. The once complicated, but transparent, process became cloaked in mystery, often violating board policies that transparency and prevent fraud and abuse. In fact, budget discussions went dark with no opportunity for public review or input.
They fired well-regarded, competent Superintendents in order to hire Superintendents who agreed with their Ed Scare agenda but had no training and experience in K-12 education, and it showed. Those superintendents knew nothing about evidence-based education practices, much less how to manage an entire district. Superintendents were chosen for loyalty to the Ed Scare candidates, rather than expertise in managing schools, students, teachers, and a multi-million dollar budget. One such Superintendent collaborated with his Ed Scare School Board to pull stunt after stunt, messing with money, salaries, and students’ lives. Teacher fled and classroom sizes ballooned.
Even school boards with some of the old guard, elected officials appeared to be powerless against these moves. In some districts, the school board chair silenced public input and other school board members with kill switches. School Board chairs quashed discussion and hid agenda items so that they could not be discussed to prevent anyone from being able to raise the alarm on items like funding new charter schools, many of which close in the first 3-10 years. Thus school board members who actually wanted to do the work of the people were silenced, as well.
Citizens were ill-equipped to fight this onslaught of opacity and authoritarianism, but they pulled together their finances to sue. It was expensive and time consuming for parents and other citizens, especially when the School Board’s legal expenses for violating policy, and sometimes the law, were covered by their insurance policies.
Taxpayers were the ones who had to foot the bill for incompetence, greed, and ignorance. But it is the students and teachers who really paid the price.
Then They Came for the Teachers
Teachers were restricted from mentioning certain topics and tip lines were made available for parents to report teachers who did. Teachers were forced to publish their full curriculum online for parents to see, and lacked the flexibility to respond to student questions or tailor classes to respect student needs, which meant both they and their students were bored.
Civics teachers were bribed to attend state-run civics training that were more like re-education camps where they learned how to teach a radically religious and conservative version of history. Their classroom libraries were purged of any book that dared speak of multiculturalism, social justice, civil rights; or people and experiences that deviated from white, cisgender, heterosexual, and Christian.
Teacher’s classrooms were sanitized of any declarations or symbols of inclusion and only American flags were allowed–rainbows were forbidden. Gone were the signs that said “you are safe here” in high school. Elementary school crayola crayon boxes that contained crayons to color the full skin tones of kids were raided, because peach would “do fine” for all people, as it always had….
Classroom records were subject to FOIAs so regularly by some paid agitators that some administrators just left the profession, while teacher harassment and conflicting messaging sent teachers fleeing for states and districts that respected them and their profession. Teachers didn’t just fear being fired, they feared being incarcerated because their very profession had been weaponized against them.
Then They Came for the Librarians
Class libraries had already been decimated in the classroom purges, so school libraries were next. Instead of following district policies covering procedures to challenge books, some superintendents chose to remove books based on a trumped up question, “Will you allow your child to access sexually explicit books?” A month later, 23 books, mostly with LGBTQIA or non-white main characters, were removed from the shelf. Some Ed Scare school board members wanted to burn the books.
In some states, books were removed from the libraries so that the space could be turned into holding cells for disciplining students. Librarians lost their jobs, students lost their books, and the community lost literacy.
Then They Came for the Students
Teachers leaving the profession and public funds stolen from public schools created the perfect storm to destroy public schools in districts across the nation. Some districts had to move to 4-day school weeks because of teacher scarcity and funding. Ultimately, it was the students who paid the price.
Responding to the Ed Scare battle cry “Return to the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic” only core classes were funded, thus the arts and any non-core classes that gave kids (and teachers!) joy were eliminated because budget cuts had to come from somewhere. Advanced Placement classes were eliminated because they were too “controversial.”
They cut the budgets for Title 1 schools that support low income families. Any mental health services were eliminated, particularly if they had the initials “SEL” (a.k.a., Social Emotional Learning) which Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education had called a “trojan horse for CRT.” No one understood how mental health programs were a “trojan horse” for anything but improved health and education outcomes, but Ed Scare officials attacked mental health programs in public schools and managed to eliminate successful, beneficial programs.
Student affinity groups were decimated after Parents Defending Education was emboldened by its earlier efforts to interfere in how affinity groups were run, they were able to eliminate all race and religion-based affinity groups, except inexplicably “Good News” and bible study groups that thrived based on religious freedom redefined by the Supreme Court.
Students felt “abandoned” by their school board when pride flags and Black Lives Matter symbols were removed. Students grew weary of nonstop protests to fight for their rights, which fell on the deaf ears of Ed Scare school board members. In some districts, families chose to move away rather than deal with the anti-transgender restrictions on health care and parental rights implemented in their state.
Along the Way, They Destroyed Public Education as we Know It
All of the chaos described above hid more complicated privatization schemes going on local and state levels which involve voucher scams and scandal-ridden charter schools, both of which suck public money away from the students who need it while giving the money to institutions that lack accountability and transparency while rejecting students who don’t fit their criteria.
This means that public schools were further underfunded, thus buildings fell into disarray, educators fled the profession, and students’ education suffered. Some schools went bankrupt, while others were hobbled by defunding as “the money follows the child” out of the taxpayers’ hands into private and religious schools.
These were more than temporary issues that could be fixed by the next election. The Ed Scare agenda jeopardized student education and success. It created a level of divisiveness and fear that ran counter to an inclusive environment that is open to all students no matter their race, ethnicity, country of origin, language, disability, ability, gender, gender identity, sexuality, or income level. The Ed Scare agenda managed to remove accountability, transparency, teachers, and students from education, and our entire nation paid the price.
What can Voters Do?
Each citizen must be ever-vigilant or freedom and rights will be abridged while children’s education will be stolen by those who want to sell it to the highest bidder. Vote. Vote wisely. Vote for public schools. Likely the future depends on it.