School boards: The next big fight

Across the country, Republicans are methodically setting their sights not only on big state and federal elections, but also on previously unremarkable local races. From city and county commissions to elections boards and — perhaps most chillingly — school boards, far-right Republican candidates are running campaigns based largely on fear and hate. And in many cases, they are winning. 

The Republican Party’s electoral strategy has been sickeningly consistent for decades: develop messages of fear and hate that resonate with their base and exploit the message to accumulate power and control. Today is no different. Republicans’ most recent message is “Save the Children from the Scary Liberals.” Whether stoking racist hate (see the Stop WOKE Act) or anti-LGBTQ hate (see the Don’t Say Gay Bill), this message forms the base for every policy proposal and political campaign. 

Republican candidates use this message to fundraise off of parental fears and promote candidates in targeted seats. They use this fear to set the terms of debate and monopolize the conversation toward conservative values that, at best, alienate other viewpoints, and, at worst, put minoritized children and families in danger. 

Nowhere is this political plan more active than in our own state. Florida is the political frontline for this anti-democracy, anti-inclusion, anti-science movement. Governor DeSantis has raised over $120 million to continue his autocratic takeover of Florida and further his efforts for a presidential bid in 2024. The cornerstone of his plan is targeting local school districts, where he knows he can stoke parental fears that were exacerbated during the COVID pandemic. And unfortunately, Alachua County is his ground zero. 

We here in Alachua County have seen a full-scale political attack from the governor on our school system, school board members, and former superintendent. He will stop at nothing in order to control our area, including funding his pick for school board candidates. Currently DeSantis has promised over $250,000 in campaign funding to the four conservative candidates he has put his stamp of approval on for our four open school board seats in this August race. 

These candidates have all the approved Republican talking points strewn throughout their messaging, speaking of safety concerns and behavioral correction, reading achievement gaps, parental collaboration, and empowering teachers. These are nothing more than empty promises and dog whistles for book banning, excluding students and families who are not Christian conforming, and segregating communities that they feel bring the system down and do not promote their whitewashed agenda. 

Do not fall for the false messages. Do not let the governor execute his agenda in our community. Do not aid the governor in his quest to Make America Florida. 

You must stand up to this takeover and help our communities fight back by electing good folks to our school board who are truly here to protect our children, their families, and their interests, not using them for profitability. We need school board members who will ensure that ALL students excel, not just those with means. 

Finally, ensure you elect school board members with a backbone to stand up to the Tallahassee takeover. We cannot not let our public schools fall and ultimately fail. On August 23, elect Diyonne McGraw for School Board District 2, Sarah Rockwell for School Board District 3, Tina Certain for School Board District 1, and Prescott Cowles for School Board District 5. 

With these folks in the driver’s seat we can push back on the governor’s attacks and send a clear message to Tallahassee that their agenda does not belong here.

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