The Battle Over the Schools Heats Up

In Minnesota, as in other states, concerned parents have banded together to try to wrest control of the public schools away from teachers’ unions, in order to improve the quality of education and to stop left-wing indoctrination. Earlier this year, we started a 501(c)(4) organization called the Minnesota Parents Alliance to lead those efforts in our state.

Today the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune both posted stories on the MPA and Minnesota’s school board races. The Pioneer Press article is long, and is titled “Social issues bring wave of conservative candidates to MN school board races.” Is educational quality now a “social issue”?

The Pioneer Press piece is reasonably fair and includes an account of MPA’s founding:

In Minnesota last year, the Center of the American Experiment — a prominent think tank and member of the State Policy Network, which promotes conservative positions like an opposition to public-sector unions and support for voucher laws that help parents redirect tax dollars toward private school tuition — toured the state to fight against an “alarming” rewrite of the K-12 social studies standards for Minnesota schools.

“We filled rooms all across the state,” said the Center’s spokesman, Bill Walsh.

All true so far.

When the tour was over, the Center seized on the momentum by holding a candidate school where around 30 school board candidates heard about critical race theory, school funding and how to get elected.

When few of their candidates won last fall….

A number of the candidates who attended our training session won, as did a number of other insurgents. But that was only the beginning. This year, we had time to get organized.

…the Center made plans for a spinoff nonprofit that would focus on school board elections.

Cristine Trooien, a Mound woman who helped run a school board campaign last year, would become the founder of the Minnesota Parents Alliance, with Center president John Hinderaker and chairman Ron Eibensteiner joining her on its three-person governing board.

MPA’s web site is here. Its voter guide, which endorses around 120 candidates, is here. The press, in an effort to support Education Minnesota and the liberals who run the schools, try to make school board races about “social issues” and the “culture war.” It is true, of course, that liberals have used the public schools to wage war on American culture and history, and on normal values. But the main focus of the Minnesota Parents Alliance and its endorsed candidates is educational excellence. With only 36 percent of Minnesota’s 11th graders able to do math at grade level, the quality of the state’s schools has reached crisis levels.

MPA’s voter guide says:

Minnesota Parents Alliance identifies and endorses school board candidates across the state who are aligned with our mission of prioritizing academic achievement, equality and parental rights in their school district.

While liberals prefer to talk about George Floyd and LGBTQ+ issues, the Pioneer Press article acknowledges the central role of academic achievement in the “conservative” insurgency:

The [MPA] voter guide includes brief statements from 104 of the 115 candidates. According to a Pioneer Press analysis of those statements:

* 60 candidates mentioned a desire for schools to focus on academic achievement or just “teach the basics.”

* 45 discussed wanting to take politics, bias or activism out of schools or to stop schools from indoctrinating children.

* 45 cited parent empowerment as a value.

* 17 were unhappy with the way schools are handling matters related to race, gender, equity or sexuality.

* Nine expressed opposition to mask mandates or other measures schools took to protect students and staff from the coronavirus.

American Experiment’s polling indicates that by a wide margin, Minnesotans want the public schools to prioritize academic excellence, not politics, “equity” or culture war issues. Thus, a lot of the MPA-endorsed candidates are going to win, even though only a handful are incumbents.

The Star Tribune story is a bit of a mystery. It was posted early this morning, but the story was soon replaced by a “404” error message–“The page you requested could not be found.” The story went up for a while later in the day, but now is gone again. The reporter told Cristine Trooien that he thinks the story is being held for tomorrow. We will see.

In any event, I have the Strib article on my phone and so can write about it. The headline is, “Culture war issues drive debate in some hotly contested school board races.” Like the Pioneer Press, the Strib doesn’t want to publicize the fact that parents are unhappy with the quality of their children’s education. Hence the “culture wars.”

The Strib introduces the Minnesota Parents Alliance this way:

In New Ulm, a slate of conservative candidates is railing against LGBTQ-friendly policies.

Have you noticed that liberals never “rail”? It’s a tell.

Two of those candidates…were endorsed by a parents association backing conservative school board candidates across the state.

Cristine Trooien of Mound founded the Minnesota Parents Alliance, reaching out to parent groups on Facebook, after the lackluster performance of conservative school board candidate slates in 2021.

I think the reporter is whistling past the graveyard. In 2021, the movement to assert parental control over the schools had barely begun. This year, and in years to come, we will see candidates who represent educational quality win lots of races against the formerly all-powerful teachers’ union and its defense of the indefensible status quo.

Trooien declined an interview, but she said via email that prerequisites for an endorsement are that candidates commit to bolstering “academic achievement, equal and inclusive treatment of all students and respecting parental rights.”

It is notable that the teachers’ union, and the liberal establishment as a whole, views these principles as an existential threat to their hegemony.

I expect good results for conservatives on November 8, including in many school board races. It is not what reporters and editors at the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune intended, but I suspect that most readers of today’s articles will track down the MPA voter guide to see what candidates they should vote for in their school district.

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