Reviews | Tennessee law makes school board culture wars even worse

Jim Garrett is the chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party, which holds primaries for its candidates running for the Nashville M...


Jim Garrett is the chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party, which holds primaries for its candidates running for the Nashville Metropolitan School Board. Nashville is among the bluest areas of Tennessee, where Democrats have an electoral advantage. Even so, with the new system, he says, more Republicans are showing up and they’re raising more money. “It looks like the cost of a campaign is going to be about double what it was before,” he said.

The local GOP is also investing more in these races. For the first time, Davidson Republicans are holding training sessions for school board candidates. Those races weren’t the focus in previous elections, Garrett says. “They are a priority now.”

There has not yet been any special training on the Democratic side. But the county party is happy to connect candidates to campaign vendors and other resources, says its chairwoman, Tara Houston. The party also appointed a special committee to come up with a platform outlining its core values ​​for public education, which candidates for the Democratic school board will need to support.

In Williamson County, where having a D next to your name is a sort of scarlet letter, most of the major action has been on the Republican side. In several districts, more conventional conservatives are up against candidates from the Trumpier wing of the party. Outside groups lined up behind their champions, providing financial and other support. The most important of them is Williamson families, a political action committee dedicated to protecting the county’s “conservative roots” and “Judeo-Christian values”. The PAC is headed by Robin Steenman, who also heads the local branch of Moms for Freedom, a Florida-based nonprofit that advocates for parental rights and “freedom-minded” leaders nationwide. Williamson Families approved a roster of superconservatives — after weeding out the RINOs, of course.

Several Williamson parents and teachers complain that, as expected, some of the campaigns and candidates seem less focused on real-world education issues and more on culture war talking points. A college teacher tells me that some candidates brag about their love for Donald Trump and decry the decline of traditional families and the ungodliness of today’s youth.

Meagan Gillis, whose two young daughters attend county schools, says the whole situation has turned into “chaos.” She points to a social media post by a Tory candidate promoting furry kids myth: the goofy claim online that teachers are forced to deal with students who identify as cats, to the point of putting litter boxes in classrooms and meowing at children. “I’m like, are you kidding me?” Mrs. Gillis marvels. Things are getting so absurd, she says, that her family is seriously considering leaving the area.

Similar concerns and complaints can be heard from other corners of the state. Virginia Babb loved her time on the Knox County School Board and planned to run for office — until moving to partisan races. Now she will step down at the end of her term rather than be sucked into the mud. She first came to the board as a “very involved parent” with no strong partisan leanings, she tells me, noting, “I don’t like either party. They are too controlled by their extremes.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Reviews | Tennessee law makes school board culture wars even worse
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