Are political divisions making parents the new swing voters?


(NewsNation) — From protests to chaotic school board meetings, parents — it seems — are paying more attention than ever to their child’s school life and the people in charge of their education.

In Miami, the board of Florida’s largest school district rescinded a decision that rejected new sex education textbooks for middle and high school students. The debate over the sex education materials in Miami took place as school districts and boards navigate a new landscape in Florida classrooms over what officials deem appropriate content.

In Oklahoma, officials at Tulsa Public Schools said they removed two sexually graphic books from school libraries following criticism from several elected leaders amid a renewed conservative interest in public education as a political issue.

Mark Rom, an associate professor of government and public policy at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, told NewsNation that the coronavirus pandemic, in part, made many parents upset over their lack of input on their child’s education. 

“These school board contests used to be just very low interest because the decisions used to seem just not as critically important,” he said. “So even though there’s low turnout, those people who do show up to these local [school board] elections, they care about these issues a lot.”

Rom said issues such as COVID-19 and gun control can really “rile up parents.”

And they’re taking those issues to school board meetings — and even to the polls.

A June survey by the National Alliance or Public Charter Schools, or NAPCS, described the “education voter” as the new “swing voter.”

It found 82% of parents would vote outside of their political party because of a candidate’s education platform. 

“I think it says that parents are understanding their power in a way that they may not have understood before,” said Debbie Veney of the NAPCS.

Experts believe those who are motivated to vote are now more motivated than ever.

“Those who care about their children’s education, they will vote,” Rom said. “They will turn out and they will want to make the decisions about what is taught and how it is taught.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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