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School board elections become hotbed for political fighting

Political groups have spent thousands of dollars on their preferred school board candidates.
School bus
Posted at 5:15 PM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 05:59:46-04

With the primary election just around the corner, one of the areas that has attracted a lot of money and attention are school board races.

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools across the country, parents started fighting back.

And local school boards became their battleground.

“What we saw during the pandemic is, nationwide, people saw how far (school boards) were overstepping,” said Tina Descovich, co-founder of “Moms for Liberty.”

“I saw the landscape of the land and said, ‘we can help them.’ We understand what the problem is and what the process is, and how to help (parents) find their voice. So that’s why ‘Moms for Liberty’ was launched.”

Descovich is a former school board member in Brevard County.

She said she helped launch the group because she wanted more parents to have a voice on the school board.

“It’s time for parents to take their seat back at the table when it comes to driving education and decisions for your children,” said Descovich.

The message soon went nationwide with chapters opening all over the country.

In July, the group held a summit in Tampa attracting hundreds of people, including Governor Ron DeSantis, whose Political Action Committee is donating money to school board candidates in local races, including two in Lee County.

“We are a non-partisan, non-profit organization. 100% of our mission is to get parents a voice and a seat at the table,” said Descovich.

That includes pouring money into local school board races across the state.

Fox 4 Investigates dug through campaign finance records and found Moms for Liberty Florida, a separate entity and a PAC, but is run by Descovich, has raised more than $50,000.

Almost every penny of that money came from Publix heiress Julie Fancelli.

In a 24 hour span, the PAC shelled out nearly $9000 to school board candidates across Florida.

The group did not donate to any local candidates.

However, Governor DeSantis’s PAC did donate $1000 a piece to his two preferred Lee County Candidates, Armor Persons and Sam Fisher.

“The Governor has been going around the state getting involved in school board politics,” said Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, the largest teacher’s union in the southeast.

“What we’re seeing right now is an attempt to politicize, divide what goes on in our schools and make everything a political decision,” Spar said. “That’s not good for kids. Overwhelmingly parents and voters reject that notion.”

Another group that is fighting “Moms for Liberty” is “Support our Schools” which was started by Lisa Schurr, a Sarasota County mother.

“I’m a parent. I have a child in the school system. I have rights as well,” Schurr said.

“Doing things like taking away civil and human rights of our LGBTQ students, not allowing the history of people of color or indigenous people, not allowing that to be taught in our schools is taking away the rights of parents.”

Democrats have also gotten involved in local school board races.

Soon after Gov. DeSantis sent out his list of 16 preferred candidates, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Rep. Charlie Crist sent out his list of seven endorsed candidates, including Lee County School Board Chair Debbie Jordan.

“I think it’s getting more politicized. People like to blame that on ‘Moms for Liberty’ and that’s not the case,” Descovich said. “’Moms for Liberty’ is just waking people up to how much politicizing has been happening in the schools for a long time.”

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