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School board recall efforts still soaring above prepandemic averages, report says

(Photo: 7News)
(Photo: 7News)
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One advocate is crediting parents' heightened scrutiny of their children's education for a nearly three-year-long stretch of increased school board recall efforts.

The number of school board recall efforts nationwide so far this year remains higher then prepandemic averages, according to data collected by Ballotpedia. The data shows that parents have led at least 149 recall efforts since Jan. 1.

Of those efforts, more than 7% of targeted school board members were ultimately removed from their positions.

Ballotpedia points to the COVID-19 pandemic in part as the catalyst for the recent pushes, and one parental rights advocate agrees.

"I think parents started to see a window into some of this during the pandemic when schools were closed for so long and school boards didn't listen to parents when parents were concerned," Alex Nester, an investigative fellow for Parents Defending Education (PDE), told Crisis in the Classroom (CITC).

The mid-year report for 2023 shows that the number of recall efforts has fallen slightly since 2021 and 2022. However, efforts remain higher than any year from 2009 to 2020, when an average of 210 efforts annually was calculated.

"Usually, it's just the most basic issues here that parents are frustrated about," Nester told CITC. "It's policies that exclude them from very vital issues, vital conversations about their children, it's keeping kids out of school for months on end, it's sometimes content -- politicized content -- on race and gender that parents see in schools."

Nester says parents' frustrations can also be "even more basic than that," such as a perceived lack of transparency surrounding finances.

READ MORE | How parents across the country took charge of their children's education in 2022

According to Ballotpedia, Michigan has seen the most recall efforts so far this year, followed by California and Colorado.

A Michigan community made waves in October when hundreds of parents raised concerns over sexually explicit books available in Dearborn Public Schools (DPS). The DPS school board prematurely shut down a meeting where parents were looking to criticize a new "opt-out" book policy, and board members walked away to chants of "vote them out."

In March, a suburban Detroit school district faced outrage from parents after a speaker allegedly shared "antisemitic" sentiments during a school assembly. Parents accused the Bloomfield Hills Schools (BHS) school board of failing to take accountability for putting their children in an "unsafe" environment.

In California, parents have largely accused school boards of prioritizing "indoctrination" over teaching students core subjects. A parent-led campaign is seeking to make "high-quality education" a constitutional right in the state this fall.

READ MORE | Dad accuses Calif. school board member of 'indoctrination,' lying to parents

While Nester says it is difficult to predict the pace at which recall efforts will continue this year, she finds it "encouraging" to see parents pushing back. She believes that "transparency" will remain at the forefront of their minds as school districts nationwide hold board elections this fall.

"Parents are going to be asking these questions, and they're going to be sure that the people responsible for where we are in education today, that they're held accountable for their decisions," Nester told CITC.

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