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    School board races emerge as GOP election focus

    Emily HoevenEMILY HOEVEN

    Red state governors, they talk a big game, don’t they, about providing parents with education choice,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Monday video post on Truth Social, the social media company founded by former President Donald Trump.

    “But when it comes time to walk the walk, they’re absent.”

    The governor’s post — in which he contrasts Alabama’s decision to spend some of its federal pandemic relief money on two new prisons with California’s choice to funnel some of it into college savings accounts for low-income students and newborns — suggests education policy could prove pivotal in the November general election, and perhaps even in a later election when Newsom himself might seek higher office. (It also earned him a clapback from Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.)

    Newsom: “Alabama chose to invest in prison and punishment. California chose to invest in education and the future. That’s the California way. America, it’s time to make your choice.”
    But when it comes to preparing for the election in California, the state Democratic and Republican parties have already made their choice.

    The California Democratic Party, which boasts nearly twice as many registered voters as its GOP counterpart, is largely targeting state and federal races, as it has done for the past two decades.

    But the California Republican Party, which hasn’t won a statewide race since 2006, is zeroing in on local school board races, betting that it can capitalize on the frustration from parents opposed to pandemic policies and controversial curriculum including sex education, ethnic studies and a revamped math framework to win big, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.

    One candidate who’s received GOP guidance: Sonja Shaw, who was motivated to run for a seat on the Chino Valley School Board after campuses shut down amid the pandemic and “parents were exited out of the school system.”

    The ultimate goal of the “Parent Revolt” program, which GOP officials say is their most tailored school board recruitment and training program ever: Mobilize re-energized Republicans and newly attracted independent voters to win not only school board seats, but eventually also more legislative and congressional races.

    Shawn Steel, a former California Republican Party chairperson who’s helping lead the school board effort: “You see the schools are just in great freefall and chaos. Parents don’t want to send their kids there. So this is the time to get people that are otherwise angst-ridden, upset, powerless. … I think there’s a real demand that this power structure is challenged and overturned, and that’s what we’re seeing right now. We don’t lead it. We don’t own it. But if we can help inspire people, particularly newcomers…”

    Rusty Hicks, chairperson of the California Democratic Party: “Ultimately I think parents want the best education for their kids. And is banning books and punishing teachers and those kinds of activities — is that top of mind for parents? No, I don’t believe so. … While Republicans in California are trying to throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks — to keep people angry and to frankly, in my view, destroy a traditional free public education in California — Democrats have been focused on the most important things.”


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