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WATCH — 74 Explains: What a New Surge of School Board Recalls Says About This Era of Bitter Education Politics

November 7, 2021

Public dissatisfaction with school boards has been building in 2021 as American politics careens from one K-12 controversy to the next: reopening classrooms and mask mandates amid COVID, transgender student rights, critical race theory legislation, etc. Throughout, Americans have become increasingly willing to resort to the seldom-used practice of recalling school board members as a way of forcing change. According to the nonpartisan elections site Ballotpedia, 84 recall attempts targeting over 200 board members have been initiated so far in 2021, a huge upsurge over the typical year. And while the efforts have typically fallen short, they gained momentum in two large and nationally prominent districts. One is Loudoun County, Virginia, where parents began to revolt last year against COVID mitigation measures and perceived excesses in the school board’s equity initiatives. The other is San Francisco, where anger grew as pandemic-related school closures dominated national headlines. The 74’s Kevin Mahnken explains what he’s found in reviewing this year’s recall efforts, and reflects on what they say about the bitter state of the country’s education politics. 

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— Edited by James Fields

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