Saturday, 24 February 2024

This school board made headlines for banning books. Voters opted for a Democratic majority

This school board made headlines for banning books. Voters opted for a Democratic majority
Monday, 13 November 2023 08:47

Megan Badden's family was considering moving if their school district in Pennsylvania didn't change its course. She, usually apolitical, felt compelled to volunteer when a group of Democrats proposed reclaiming the school board in the Central Bucks district, north of Philadelphia.

Central Bucks gained statewide and national attention for its heated school board meetings featuring masks and Pride flags, a policy banning certain books, and directives not to use preferred names and pronouns for students. Discrimination allegations against LGBTQ students have led to an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Education."I couldn't allow my children to live in a school district where such things were happening," said Badden.

Standing in the Bucks County Democratic Party headquarters on election night, Badden cried when the results were announced: Democrats took all five seats in the elections.

The room erupted in applause; friends, neighbors, and strangers embraced.

"It was very touching and joyous for everyone," recalls Badden. "And a sense of relief."

If there were a question about whether the policies of a conservative-led school board reflected the will of the local community, Tuesday's elections might have provided an answer.

EDUCATION On the Down Low: Suburban Philadelphia school district accused of stigmatizing LGBTQ students Three of the recently elected school board members from the Democratic Party will replace Republicans, including the board president who helped set the conservative agenda in line with national conservative movements in education. Voters effectively shifted the composition of the board from a Republican majority to a Democratic one.

Republicans also lost control of most school boards in Iowa, Virginia, and a historically conservative neighboring district near Central Bucks.

Unexpected Democratic victory in a politically mixed district The Central Bucks school district is the third-largest in Pennsylvania, with over 17,000 students. It is also a politically mixed and swing district.

"I shouldn't have won," said Democratic candidate Heather Reynolds, who won the pre-election race against the current board president and the only acting Republican president.

According to her, Reynolds's newly acquired seat represents a part of the district that is more Republican than others.

"I think the community has had enough. They saw what the former majority on the board did, and they said, 'Enough. We deserve better as a district, as a community. We are not like this.'"

Reynolds said residents and parents were exhausted by the chaos that had become a regular part of the monthly school board meetings.

Poll: Americans say teachers are underpaid; about half of Republicans oppose book bans EDUCATION Poll: Americans say teachers are underpaid; about half of Republicans oppose book bans According to her, financial responsibility was also a significant concern. In July, the board increased Superintendent Abe Lucabaugh's salary by nearly 40%, making him the second-highest-paid superintendent in the state after Philadelphia. Lucabaugh supported the controversial policies of the board, even though the district spent at least $1 million on a law firm after discrimination allegations and over $140,000 on a public relations firm, which, among other things, handled media inquiries.

NPR reached out to Republican Central Buck School Board candidates for comments; some declined interviews, while others did not respond. Only one candidate was willing to speak, Glenn Schloeffel. He said the results were disappointing.

"We put in a lot of effort to achieve a successful result, but everything went wrong."

Schloeffel believes that the majority on the board was "thrown under the bus" after discrimination allegations. He also doesn't find it fair to characterize their decisions regarding books as a "book ban." He said the books removed from the libraries by the current board "have a very vivid and sexual nature. Absolutely disgusting... There is no place for this in our schools."

Republican candidate Steve Mazz told the Delaware Valley Journal: "The only winners in Tuesday's elections are private schools, whose student enrollment will skyrocket in the next few years as parents see what policies are being implemented in our district."

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