We’ve made note several times in recent months of the obvious disdain New Hampshire’s conservatives, including its current legislative leaders, have for public education and, in particular, the teachers who comprise its backbone. From intimidation via anti-free speech legislation that’s led as far as bounties being placed on teachers who dare discuss the “wrong” aspects of our nation’s history, to a proposed loyalty oath, the attacks have made increasingly clear that the national culture war has seeped into not only state-level political races, but local-level (supposedly nonpolitical) offices as well.

That dynamic was laid out in a report by N.H. Bulletin reporter Ethan DeWitt last week, a report subsequently carried in this publication as well. It outlined the tactics already underway by far-right groups to install as many like-minded idealogues on local school boards as possible.

Groups such as 603 Alliance and Defend Our Kids are hoping to capitalize on the manufactured furor over Critical Race Theory to draw candidates who would, presumably, enact policy changes that align with their conservative stances. As DeWitt reported, 603 Alliance is vetting “applicants” to receive its backing come March elections – if they pass the group’s evaluation by properly answering questions about who can use what restroom or play on which sports teams, disciplining students, COVID policies and, of course, CRT.

That’s a sad and scary commentary on where we are as a society and how we value education, but not because the groups are conservative. No, the same report found liberal-leaning groups are just as fired up about getting more progressives onto local school boards. “One organization, 603 Forward, is hosting its own candidate trainings this winter,” DeWitt wrote, “encouraging younger and newer candidates who support public school policies around masks.” It’s also coordinating with the state’s largest teachers union and the advocacy group Granite State Progress to encourage candidates and offer training for would-be school board members.

It would be easy to say the only fervor prospective school board candidates ought to be bringing to the table is for educating their district’s children. But we know that’s too simplistic an approach. In fact, being a school board member means balancing the wants of several, sometimes competing groups: students, parents, school faculty and staff, and other taxpayers.

We’ve seen area school boards become battlegrounds over taxes and spending. That’s sometimes unfortunate, but fair, in that the groups hashing things out are both local and stakeholders. To have statewide (or beyond) political groups stepping in to affect the ideological leanings of school boards is something else.

Naturally, those on both sides are quick to point fingers across the cultural divide, saying they’re only stepping in to protect public schools and, of course, students, from the indoctrination efforts of bogeymen holding opposing views. It makes no difference. Both campaigns are misguided, in that their intent is not really educational, but cultural.

We’re generally all for drumming up interest in public service at all levels of government. But, just as we’ve opposed turning Keene’s mayoral and/or City Council races into partisan affairs, we see the politicizing of local school boards as a detriment to all involved in local education.

Recommended for you