SARASOTA, Fla. — Historically knowns as kid-friendly and politically neutral, on Tuesday local school board elections are expected to be among the most watched races with results having, potentially, some of the most substantial impacts on new laws, new policies, and a new agenda for education across the state.
“If there’s a lot of success by groups like Moms For Liberty, you can bet it will embolden the legislature to pass the same sort of conservative policies at large,” explained Florida political analyst Dr. Susan McManus.
Moms for Liberty, a conservative moms group born out of pandemic controversies including mask mandates, is fighting to restore what, members say, has been an increasing loss of parents' rights in student education in Florida.
“We are changing the direction of this country,” one of its founders said during the group’s first annual conference in Tampa last month.
How they plan to do it is largely focused on Tuesday night’s school board races. Members hope to nap dozens of school board seats across the state with their own candidates who are focused on preserving conservative values in public classrooms.
Mindy Brewster of Osceola County and Ally Legge of Hillsborough County are among members who have turned into first-time school board candidates.
“When no one was ready to step up I had to,” said Brewster.
“Education is the foundation of our freedoms and they’re not after you or I, they’re after our children,” said Legge.
It’s politically motivated positions in otherwise non-partisan races that have attracted the likes of Republican heavyweights including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose political action committee has donated thousands of dollars to conservative school board candidates and who, himself, has made school board races a primary election night focus. In an unusual move for a Governor, DeSantis has endorsed 30 school board candidates, Ally Legge among them.
On Sunday, the Governor toured the state as part of an “education agenda” tour to try and drum up support for conservative school board candidates.
“If I could have a conservative majority on every school board in the country, we would
be in such good shape,” he said during a stop in Sarasota during the tour.
Liberal moms groups have voiced their concerns.
“This race is really not just about the school board, it’s about a radical right-wing, taking over local power and ultimately working to dismantle public education,” said Lisa Schurr a founder of Support Our Schools in Sarasota which formed to oppose groups like Moms for Liberty.
“I absolutely do not believe it’s an us versus them,” said Andrew Spar Executive Director of Florida’s teachers' union, which leans more liberal.
He believes Tuesday night’s primary will result in a “mixed bag” of wins across school boards. When asked if he would welcome members of Moms for Liberty and Governor DeSantis-endorsed candidates to the table, he responded “look everyone is welcome to the table as far as I’m concerned. It’s non-partisan but we should be focused on kids.”