Moms mobilized by COVID school closures have channeled their energy into politics, and not just by electing officials they agree with — now they’re recruiting and running for positions themselves. The group “Moms for Liberty” started in the wake of school closures and grew due to curriculum inclusions on gender and sexuality that many parents were unaware of until they became more involved.
“Parents realized that this American government does not work well without us,” said Tiffany Justice, one of the co-founders of the group. “And while we were busy raising our kids and working, we saw during COVID that elected officials abdicated their authority.”
Justice’s group held their first annual event in Tampa, Florida, over the weekend to help train, recruit and educate parents who want to get more involved in their local school boards or even run for office themselves.
“Parents are ready to take the reins in school districts across the country to sit on school boards,” she said. “And we feel like we were able to give parents a lot of good skills, tips and resources to be able to be effective candidates as well.”
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Esther Wells, a parent in Maryland and a school board candidate decided to run after her children — including one with disabilities — had extended virtual-only school.
“With the virtual-only option, my son lost all of his resources and has significantly regressed in his schoolwork,” she said Monday on “FOX & Friends First.” “And that’s when I said I needed to step up as a mom and run for the Board of Education.”
Parents say the issue of school closures may have faded from the headlines, but they are still seeing the effects on their kids and are pointing the blame straight at elected officials at the time. One official who kept schools open in his state amid much criticism, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., spoke at the Tampa event. He said that as a result of the state’s decision, their students are largely on track academically while other states that did lengthy remote learning are behind.
“In Florida, over the last two years, there’s been no increase, no widening of the achievement gap, between rich, poor, black, white,” he said. “Because we had kids, and you know what, the California school closures and all these other places, you know, that hurts disadvantaged kids the most.”
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But Democrats are fighting back against the idea that they don’t want open schools or parent involvement. Last month, the Biden administration launched the National Parents and Families Engagement Council to link families and educators together and involve parents more in their child’s education.
“The Council will help foster a collaborative environment where we can work together to serve the best interest of students and ensure they have the academic and mental health support they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement last month.
Conservative groups, however, are pushing back against that council, labeling it as yet another instance of political bias, which they say violates federal law. Fight for Schools, Parents Defending Education and America First Legal are suing over claims the members of the council are all Biden allies and Democratic donors. The lawsuit alleges the council’s members are allies of the Biden administration and that nearly 80% of their leaders have donated to Biden or other Democrats.
Justice says she hopes the agency gets back to focusing on educating rather than activism.
“Parents want the unions and the Department of Education to get back to focusing on teaching and learning or to get out of the business of education,” she said.