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    Setting Brushfires of Freedom by Don Jans

    Frustration spurs California parents to run for school boards

    Across California, parents’ pandemic-era frustrations over everything from COVID school closures and safety protocols to the power of teachers’ unions are driving them to run for school boards.

    Some are motivated by national controversies, such as critical race theory and LGBTQ+ education. Others want to make sure the record amount of money pouring into California schools benefits students directly. According to the California School Boards Association, about half of the approximately 5,000 school board seats in the state are up for election this year, but there’s no official count of how many parents are running for these offices that have drawn so much ire during the pandemic.

    “It’s clear that we’re really investing in our public schools,” said Taylor Kayatta, a parent and school board candidate in Sacramento. “Whatever money we’re making this year should be spent on this year’s students. I don’t like the idea of putting money away just to put it away.”

    Kayatta said he wants to streamline the clunky bureaucracy at Sacramento City Unified, which he and his family experienced first-hand. As he goes door-to-door to speak to voters, he starts the conversation with the story of his son and the struggle to get him a speech therapist through the district.

    “There was a year or two where every day I’d wake up and say, ‘Is this the day when we put our house on the market and move to Folsom?’” he said. “Because if I couldn’t get my son the services he needed, there was only so much I could push.”

    The 37-year-old attorney is seeking public office for the first time. Kayatta’s campaign for school board is a throwback to pre-pandemic times: more transparency, better communication and fiscal responsibility.

    The local teachers union at Sacramento City Unified endorsed him, but Kayatta knows the endorsement might be a liability. Antagonism towards teachers unions fueled much of the parent activism during the pandemic.

    “People might say that I’m a lackey,” he said. “But I’ve told the union that I’m not going to silence myself.”

    In other parts of the state, parents who believed their personal liberties were violated by mask and vaccine mandates and sex education curricula found allies among school choice advocates and longtime opponents of teachers unions. The state Republican party has been tapping into this “parental rights” platform to support candidates it believes are aligned with its agenda.



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