On Tuesday evening, the Guilford County School Board meeting was packed, like standing-room-only packed.
And that’s because these days, school board meetings are where it’s at. Let me explain.
On Tuesday evening, Republican Michael Logan, who has been fighting to get on the school board since last year, was finally sworn in after months of legal battles and legislative machinations. Up until last night, Republican Bill Goebel had been in Logan’s seat after fellow Republican Pat Tillman vacated his seat to serve on the Guilford County Commission last year.
What happened after Tillman left resulted in political shenanigans that unfolded in the months thereafter.
According to state law at the time, the Guilford County Republican party was tasked with filling Tillis’ vacant seat by appointing a successor. They tapped Logan, a former educator. But shortly afterwards, the Democratic members of the school board repeatedly voted to reject Logan, citing what they called racist and bigoted posts of his from social media. In response, the General Assembly passed HB 88 to clear the way for Logan’s approval, but the remaining school board wouldn’t back down. They found a different legal interpretation of the law — Republicans called it a “loophole” — and seated Goebel instead. Then in August, lawmakers passed SB 9 to once again clarify rules for appointing representatives to open school board seats.
Now, after months of heated debate, Logan was sworn in on Tuesday evening after Goebel tendered a letter of resignation, citing the ongoing litigation as distracting from the ultimate goal of “educating our children.”
So what’s all the fuss? Why all the fighting for a measly school board seat?
Well, back maybe just a decade ago, running for school board was sort of a minor deal. The races were far down the ballot and people usually voted along party lines. It was difficult to find candidates to fill the seats. But those times are long gone.
Those who have been paying any attention to national and local politics in the last few years will know that schools and school boards are now a political battlefield. Even before Florida Gov. Ron De Santis decided to run for president, conservative parents have been targeting masks, vaccines and then books written by and about Black people, the LGBTQ+ community and any other marginalized groups they deem outside of their American norm. And they’re only ramping up. More and more national groups like Bonds for the Win and Moms for Liberty have propped up local branches (looking at you Forsyth and Guilford County), and they have no plans to stop. Just look at how Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is running his campaign for governor.
So while school board races may have been just a down ballot, dusty race in the past, it’s one that we should all be paying close attention to in the future, because this hyperpoliticization of schools isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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