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When White Parents Aren’t so Nice: The Politics of Anti-CRT and Anti-equity Policy in Post-pandemic America

ABSTRACT In the run-up to the U.S. 2022 midterm elections, Republicans brought their fight to regain control of Congress to school districts across the country. Deploying a national disinformation campaign regarding how issues of race and racism are taught in K-12 public schools, astroturf 1 1 Astroturf organizations maintain a facade that creates an impression of grassroots support and hides their elite origins and backing. conservative advocacy organizations mobilized activists to descend on school board meetings and upend school board elections nationwide demanding an end to indoctrination of children with critical race theory (CRT). These efforts created a chilling effect among superintendents and school board members committed to advancing equity, anti-racism, and social justice. In this descriptive, conceptual paper, we portray and analyze the national campaign against CRT and equity in schools, how it played out at the local school district level, and its implications for superintendents and school board members leading for equity. Tenets of critical policy analysis are used to frame and organize our analysis of the national disinformation campaign to include policy documents, blog posts, news coverage, and related materials that illustrate its impact on local school districts. We conclude with a discussion of how superintendents and school board members committed to equity leadership must understand how the politics of race and effective use of political spectacle can undermine local efforts to advance equity and social justice in schools, and consider the far-reaching consequences for the future of public education in the U.S.

Who Should Control Education Now? Revisiting Preferences for Local Control in Educational Decision Making

ABSTRACT Despite a long history of local control of schools, educational issues have become increasingly contested at higher levels of government as battles are fought in state and federal venues and along partisan lines. In light of this change as well as recent battles over school responses to COVID-19 and schools’ roles in combating systemic racism, we explore how the shifting politics of education have affected public attitudes toward localism in education. We demonstrate that the public’s preference for local control is not as deeply held as conventional wisdom suggests. Local government is never the public’s most preferred option when asked about the optimal distribution of education funding or decision-making authority across all three levels of government. Our results also show that preferences for local control have remained relatively stable and exhibit only narrowly increasing partisan differences; however, the increase in the partisan divide is larger among parents. We note that Democrats have adjusted their preferences over the last few years, shifting modestly in favor of local decision-making when Republicans control the Presidency and Congress. Finally, we observe some evidence that prompting individuals to consider schools’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic causes them to gravitate toward local control of education.