- - Thursday, October 28, 2021

Local school boards were intended to facilitate local governance, maximize parental involvement, and create proper accountability for voters and parents. In recent months, parents nationwide have protested at their local school board meetings because those hallmarks of local control over schools have been lost to an increasingly nationalized, woke agenda. How did we get here?  

Many local school boards today belong to national associations, which, in theory, should help local school boards by pooling resources and enabling small districts to benefit from best practices across the country.  

In practice, however, these national school board associations function less as resource depots and more as ideologically-driven command centers, shaping curriculum and pushing a radical agenda. 

Among those far-left initiatives from many school board associations are critical race theory, the 1619 Project, “equity” as a replacement for equality, and radical transgender programs. 

Most recently, one of the nation’s largest school board associations, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), sent a letter to President Biden asking that he direct the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to investigate parents as domestic terrorists. So, rather than address parents’ well-founded concerns about a curriculum that is explicitly racist, teaches students to hate America, and indoctrinates children with the far-left agenda, the NSBA has instead decided to shut down debate by labeling parents as domestic terrorists.   

Tea Party Patriots Action, the nation’s grassroots organization I founded and lead, has provided resources to parents to encourage them to engage and participate in their school board meetings. A few months ago, we began giving background information about some of these far-left national school board organizations that have infiltrated our school boards.  

As we have explained in our resource guides, these associations vary in size, and some are regional, some are at the state-level, while others are national associations. The national associations are openly committed to advocating for the very policies and curriculum programs that so many Americans want to stop. These associations receive significant amounts of funding from large corporations, including woke companies seeking to radicalize schools. Many of these corporations were the same ones funding Black Lives Matter and transgender campaigns.   

These national school board associations have inverted local governance, creating a top-down super-structure that overrides parents’ involvement.   

In writing about the marvel of American civic life, Alexis de Tocqueville distinguished in Democracy in America between political associations and the associations formed in civil life “which have an object that is in no way political.” These associations, throughout our history, have been created to address community problems, improve hospitals and medical care, and educate children. School board associations today ought to belong in this latter category of associations, except that they have become explicitly political, with exclusively political objectives.  

Tocqueville helps us gain further insight into just how vital these associations are in civil life – and how they have defined our American project in self-governance. Tocqueville further noted, “Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.” From our founding, Americans have preferred local control, civic associations, and self-government over the European model of more centralized control.  

These associations, in Tocqueville’s estimation, were a primary vehicle for Americans to implement self-governance. Instead of local associations supporting the community’s education needs, what we see today is the growth of national associations, stifling self-governance and supplanting local voices with a woke national agenda.  

The right to freely associate is so paramount in our form of government that it is protected in our First Amendment. The reciprocal right – the right to disassociate – is no less critical. Many of these national school board associations have made it impossible for parents to participate in the decision-making process. They have left us with no choice but to remove our school boards from the national groups. Several school boards have already moved in that direction, disavowing national school boards associations, especially the National School Boards Association.  

As Americans look to restore local control over institutions, especially related to the education of our children, they should examine their school board’s associations and affiliations. Do those larger umbrella groups accurately represent your community’s values? If not, there’s no time like the present to disassociate from these radical national groups.  

• Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots.

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