Why Aren't We Having Any Summits About Taking Over School Boards?

Right Wing Extremism
Why Aren't We Having Any Summits About Taking Over School Boards?

In a revelation that will shock you to your very core, former Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos has come out saying she thinks the Department of Education should be abolished entirely.

“I personally think the Department of Education should not exist,” DeVos said this weekend at the first ever Moms for Liberty summit in Tampa, Florida. While there once may have been a time when few conservatives would come right out with their opposition to the Department of Education, the Right has become increasingly bold about its attacks on our education system, the Department of Education and even the concept of public schools in general.

And a lot of that is due to groups like Moms for Liberty and summits like these.

The three-day convention provided training to members from across the United States on how to run for school board elections and secure conservative majorities on those boards for the purpose of making schools just a little more racist, transphobic and censorious.

Via the Florida Phoenix:

In a series of breakout sessions not open to the press, guest speakers instructed participants on how to recruit, vet, endorse and promote conservatives as school board candidates. Other sessions focused on legal defense of parental rights over school-board authority, strategic research, and ways to fight “gender ideology, in our schools,” “social and emotional learning” and “restorative justice.”

Moms For Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice, who interviewed DeVos, said, “We love teachers here at Moms For Liberty” but she called teacher unions a “K-12 cartel.” She said Moms For Liberty seeks to separate teachers from unions, which she claimed are imposing liberal politics in classrooms.

DeVos wasn't the only right-wing celeb there, either. Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis gave the keynote speech. Former Florida GOP Governor Rick Scott appeared on a panel talking about school safety in light of the Uvalde massacre and other school shootings — advocating for less gun control and more armed teachers.

This is all horrifying. But what is scarier than the fact that they are doing this at is that we are not. Conservatives have been targeting school boards since the 1980s at least, both because they want control over our education system and because they are relatively easy elections to win, often with not a lot of competition.

It's one thing to just say Democrats should run for school boards, which they should. It's another to have these kinds of summits and conventions and training sessions, which at this point conservatives are doing constantly. They're showing people how to do things, developing messages and also getting terrible people excited about all of the terrible things they plan for the future. They're making those people passionate about their issues and introducing them to new ones. They're developing messaging strategies. They're making celebrities out of their young Republican extremists, giving them platforms and opportunities to speak and sell merchandise. They weaponize their own twisted version of idealism and it works.

There's no Democratic version of this, no left-wing version of CPAC or any of the other conventions. And sure, we can say that's because of COVID, but we didn't have them before, either, Plus we can always stream things (another thing we should consider doing more of as well). It's a way of getting people energized and feeling like they are part of something, which they do tend to like. There's a very top-down approach sometimes in politics that can be really alienating.

I actually think these kinds of conventions could also be a good way to foster some good will on the left in general, and we need that. Things are getting incredibly hostile. The only time most of us interact with other factions of the left and center-left is on social media, and we all know how toxic that can get. Maybe having conversations in person and finding some common ground could calm that down a little (even if arguments happen, which they would).

Reading the description of this event, I felt scared. I felt like "Oh god, they're really gonna do this and what are we gonna do to stop them?" and I don't want to feel like that. I don't like feeling helpless.

While I can't host a convention and know nothing about running for office and even less about school boards (except for the time I had to defend my "Bombing For Peace Is Like Fucking For Virginity" purse — and won), we do have the livestream! So if anyone knows anyone who does know about that and can help give some pointers, send me an email at robyn@wonkette.com.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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