Learn More: Voting
In recent years, school boards across the nation have become political battlefields. Organizations advocating for Parent’s Rights have raised concerns about introducing Critical Race Theory, gender discussions, and LGBT+ materials in public schools, lobbying for the removal of school board members that support this educational curriculum. Meanwhile, groups such as Moms for Liberty pour money into school board races, endorse candidates, and use hot-button issues to energize voters.
Education has been a controversial cultural issue for generations, and the tactic of targeting school boards to make change is not new. In the 1920s, religious groups used school boards to attempt to ban the teaching of evolution, while in the 1960s, conservatives attempted to gain majority votes in school boards across the nation to oppose the adoption of sex education curriculums. Now, similar strategies are utilized by contemporary groups, among the most significant including Moms For Liberty.
School boards became an increasingly controversial issue during the COVID-19 Pandemic, when parents and local officials rallied against school boards’ decisions to switch to online learning and uphold mask mandates. For example, in South Carolina’s Lexington-Richland school system, board members upset over pandemic restrictions, a new majority, forced the superintendent, Christina Melton, to retire. Christina Melton had pushed to keep mask requirements, and had just received the state’s superintendent of the year award. Furthermore, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, many school districts started to adopt Critical Race Theory and Ethnic Studies classes. Parents who opposed the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, backed by advocacy organizations, sought to ban it through gaining seats on the school board. One such parent included Clarice Schillinger, who founded the Pennsylvania organization Keeping Kids in School, recruiting 100 parents to run for school boards in her state. The group advocated to fully open its schools, but also fought to ban Critical Race Theory. The group even gained funding and traction through venture capitalist Paul Martino, who pledged a half-million dollars to the movement.
What is Moms For Liberty?
Moms For Liberty is a political organization that advocates against school curriculums inclusive of LGBT+, race and ethnicity, and gender discussions. The group, founded in 2021, has quickly amassed influence within school boards, and clout within both the Republican party and conservative circles. They have formed connections with high-profile GOP groups and lawmakers, including the conservative Heritage Foundation. The local influence of Moms For Liberty attracted five Republican 2024 candidates — including Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — to attend Moms for Liberty summit in Philadelphia, stating that educational issues will be one of their main focuses in the 2024 election. These candidates seek the endorsement of Moms For Liberty during their presidential campaigns.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Moms For Liberty as an “extremist” organization for alleged harassment, advancing anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation, and fighting against diverse and inclusive curriculum. Recently, Moms For Liberty has faced growing backlash as a result of the Hamilton County chapter including a quote spoken by Adolf Hitler– “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future,”-- in their newsletter. However, Moms For Liberty believes that all press is good press, and trains their members to use negative media attention to recruit new members.
Furthermore, the Moms For Liberty Political Action Committee is planning to enhance the group’s involvement with 2024 school board races nationwide, endorsing both school board and superintendent candidates that align with their values. Tiffany Justice, Moms For Liberty co-founder, stated in an interview that the group will start endorsing State Board of Education candidates, which could give them power to make policy decisions on academic standards, curriculum, and instructional materials. In addition to their growing political influence, the group has already seen national success. In 2022, more than half of the 500 school board candidates it endorsed across the country won their races. School board candidates who are supported by the organization have been elected in school boards across the nation, succeeding in making changes in K-12 public schools.
Call to Action – Student School Board Representatives
Make changes to your educational community by becoming a student board member. Student board members enable school boards to acknowledge student voices in their district governance, incorporating student perspectives on policy decisions. Becoming a student board member is an opportunity to learn about local government and the importance of civic involvement. Student board members develop leadership and communication skills, and gain experience working alongside their communities to meet the needs of their districts.
In most states, student board members attend and participate in all open meetings of the board, are recognized as full members, and receive open meeting materials and staff briefings. Student board members also cast preferential votes that express the student’s perspective. This vote is a formal expression of opinion, but does not affect the final outcome of the vote. While the majority of states grant preferential votes to their student board members, as of 2023, Maryland is the only state that permits student representatives to have voting power like other school board members.
Zachary Patterson, a student board member on San Diego’s school board, is an example of the positive change that can be enacted when a student voice is included on the school board. As a board member he worked to promote and maintain the new climate plan, helping the district get funding to convert to electric school buses. Patterson is one of the many student board members around the country who are uniting to draft climate action plans for net-zero buildings and climate curricula in their school districts.
Which States Include Student Representatives?
According to the National School Boards Association, survey conducted in 2009 shows that among the 39 responding states, 25 states reported that they have students serving on local school boards, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Since then, New Hampshire has enacted a new law that requires every school board to have at least one student member from each of the high schools maintained by the district. 14 states, including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indian, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia, reported that it was not their practice to include student board representatives.
However, if a school board does not have a student seat in California, the student body can petition for student representation on their local school board. The petition must have at least 500 signatures or 10 percent of the student body– whichever number is less. If a student board member position is established by petition, the member must be chosen by high school peers.
Call to Action – Voting
Voting is an opportunity to take an active role in electing representatives and government officials that will best address the issues important to you. In the wake of increasing book bans and curriculum restrictions, with many school districts rolling back LGBT+ student rights, your vote in both local and national elections can make a tangible difference in the outcome of these issues. Despite the fact that local elections have particular impact on the day-to-day lives of community members, turnout for local elections is historically low. Across the U.S., only 15 to 27 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in their local election. Local elected officials make crucial decisions about community infrastructure, including police and fire, transportation, housing, drinking water, and, in the case of school board members, education.
Your voice and your vote have the capacity to make change in this nation’s political sphere. For information on how to register to vote, see the information below.
View this PDF for an interactive map for online voter registration:
View this PDF to learn more about voter registration & specific details:
States without online voter registration:
In Arkansas, voters must fill out a paper Voter Registration Application, obtained through their local county clerk, the Arkansas Secretary of State Elections Division: 1-800-482-1127, local revenue or DMV office, public library, disability agency, or military recruitment office
They may also fill out the Online Request Form:
Print a Form:
For more information: https://www.sos.arkansas.gov/elections/voter-information/voter-registration-information
In Maine, a voter can register by filling out a voter registration card at city hall, through any Motor Vehicle branch office, in most state & federal social service agencies, or at voter registration drives. The voter registration application is also available in a PDF form. For more information: https://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/voter-info/voterguide.html
In Mississippi, you must fill out a paper voter registration application. You can register to vote at your Circuit Clerk's office, your Municipal Clerk's office, or through the mail by downloading a voter registration form and mailing it to your Circuit Clerk. Mail-in voter registration forms are available at the Secretary of State's Office, in public libraries, drivers license exam stations, circuit clerk's offices, municipal clerk's offices, public schools.
For additional information and to access the pdf of the voter registration form, access the following link: https://www.sos.ms.gov/index.php/voter-id/register
Visit your county election office to complete a registration form. The registration form is also available as a PDF. After filling out the PDF, drop it off at your county election office, or mail it to the county election administrator. Registration forms are also available when you renew your driver’s license or Montana ID.
46. New Hampshire
New Hampshire voters can register to vote with the clerk or the supervisor of the checklist in the town or city they live in. To find the the name and contact information of your town or city clerk, follow this link: https://app.sos.nh.gov/viphome. Alternatively, New Hampshire voters can also register to vote at their polling place on election day.
47. North Dakota
In North Dakota, voter registration is not required. However, an ID must be provided when voting. Accepted IDs include:
ND Department of Transportation (DOT) driver's license. Click this link to view licensing sites: Make an appointment: 1-855-633-6835 DRIVER LICENSE SITES
DOT Nondriver's ID cards
Tribal government issued identification
Long term care identification certificate
48. South Dakota
South Dakota voters can register through printing the Voter Registration Form, filling out the form, signing it and then submitting it to your County Auditor. For a complete list of county auditors, follow this link: https://vip.sdsos.gov/CountyAuditors.aspx. To access the Voter Registration form, follow this link: https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/voting/register-to-vote/default.aspx
Texas voters can complete a Voter Registration Form online, then print, sign and mail the completed application directly to your county election office. County Voter Registration officials can be contacted on this website: https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/votregduties.shtml
Alternatively, they can request a printed, postage-paid Voter Registration Application by filling out the following form: https://vrrequest.sos.state.tx.us/index.asp
Voters can register in-person by visiting their county’s clerk website to find in-person voter registration locations. They can also register by mail by filling out the Voter Registration Application PDF and mailing it to their county clerk’s office. The Voter Registration Application PDF can be found through following this link: https://sos.wyo.gov/Forms/Elections/General/VoterRegistrationForm.pdf
Why become a student board representative? Why vote? Under a political climate of increasing misinformation, anti-LGBT+ political campaigns, and book bans, your voice can help implement change in both local and national government. Through participating in local elections or becoming your school representative, you can help make decisions about how your community is run, impacting students brought up within public educational systems. Take an active stance to promote diverse, inclusive curriculums – get involved in local politics.