Amid all the attention on this month’s elections in Wisconsin and Illinois, one outcome with major implications for 2024 flew under the national radar: School board candidates who ran culture-war campaigns flamed out.
Democrats and teachers’ unions boasted candidates they backed in Midwestern suburbs trounced their opponents in the once-sleepy races. The winning record, they said, was particularly noticeable in elections where conservative candidates emphasized agendas packed with race, gender identity and parental involvement in classrooms.
While there’s no official overall tally of school board results in states that held an array of elections on April 4, two conservative national education groups did not dispute that their candidates posted a losing record. Liberals are now making the case that their winning bids for school board seats in Illinois and Wisconsin show they can beat back Republican attacks on divisive education issues.
The results could also serve as a renewed warning to Republican presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis: General election voters are less interested in crusades against critical race theory and transgender students than they are in funding schools and ensuring they are safe.
“Where culture war issues were being waged by some school board candidates, those issues fell flat with voters,” said Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association labor union. “The takeaway for us is that parents and community members and voters want candidates who are focused on strengthening our public schools, not abandoning them.”
The results from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas are hardly the last word on the matter. Thousands more local school elections are set for later this year in some two dozen states. They are often low turnout, low profile, and officially nonpartisan affairs, and conservatives say they are competing aggressively.