A group formed to oppose COVID-19 mask mandates is expanding its agenda to influence school board elections, and a national watchdog group believes another goal is defunding public education.
The group "Moms for Liberty" launched in Florida in 2021 with a mission to "unify, educate and empower parents." With eight chapters in Texas, the organization also opposes LGBTQ-positive policies in schools and related materials in school libraries.
Lisa Graves, executive director of True North Research, believes the group, which does not disclose its funding, is making another attempt to advance private schools.
"While they're using their platform to attack school boards, part of their ambition is to take money out of the public schools; to privatize public education," Graves explained.
While the vast majority of school boards nationwide hold officially nonpartisan elections, some states partisan labels allow or require candidates to appear on the ballot with their party affiliation.
Nearly 30 conservatives backed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won their school board seats in 2022, and based on recommendations from the group, DeSantis has said he'll target another 14 seats in the 2024 elections.
Graves believes efforts to politicize school boards go hand in hand with efforts to ban books from school libraries.
"And when we've seen some of these books pulled down and censored in different school districts -- some of them have been trying to censor lessons about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks -- and so it really is quite a repressive and regressive agenda," Graves pointed out.
Graves noted another unfortunate consequence of political groups targeting public schools is the harm caused to those most vulnerable, including LGBTQ children.
"... who are now facing this onslaught by these very angry adults who I don't think represent the majority of Americans," Graves contended.
The "Moms for Liberty" organization now has at least 260 local chapters, and claims to have more than 100,000 members.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.