This is what Democracy looks like

Thirty local candidates gathered on a recent Saturday in suburban St. Paul for a training session on how to talk about education issues and ultimately win election to the school board. It was American Experiment’s first foray into training school board candidates and grew out of overwhelming interest in the issue of Critical Race Theory.

American Experiment embarked on a 17-city tour this summer, educating citizens on the dangers of Critical Race Theory and documenting its implementation in Minnesota schools. The Raise Our Standards tour attracted thousands of participants and raised awareness of CRT across the state. As a result, the Minnesota legislature voted to delay implementation of the proposed social studies standards because of their reliance on the CRT framework.

Tough questions also targeted local school boards, where ideas like equity audits and Critical Race Theory were taking root. Hundreds of citizens began showing up at school board meetings, dominating the public forum part of the agenda. Many school boards reacted poorly by enacting time limits or even eliminating the public forum altogether. School board members began to announce they were resigning — they couldn’t take the pressure.

Out of all this turmoil, an amazing thing happened. Frustrated parents and citizens signed up to run for school board all over the state. Over 200 candidates met the August 10 filing deadline with some school districts seeing 15 candidates running for only four seats.  

A school board campaign school was the perfect follow-up for American Experiment’s Raise Our Standards campaign.

The one-day non-partisan campaign school started with Education Policy Fellow Catrin Wigfall giving a presentation on Critical Race Theory and other important education policy issues.

That was followed by a talk on the complexities of school finance since most decisions made by school board members involve funding. Attendees were then treated to a lunch panel discussion with current and former school board members.

The afternoon was dedicated to the nuts-and-bolts tactics of getting elected — everything from lawn signs to digital advertising.

The candidates left the school fired up to talk to voters this fall and hopefully take their seats next January on school boards across Minnesota. Despite federal and state efforts to take over school policy, the most important decisions regarding our children’s education remain at the local level. American Experiment plans to build off the success of our first local campaign school as we head into the future.