While working the polls last week, I approached voters about school board races. Some looked straight ahead and marched towards the door, assuring me they were “all set.” Others were curious and open, willing to take the literature. But then I encountered voters who would recoil, furrowing their brows, and stopping me with hand gestures at the mere mention of voting for the school board. These voters abruptly responded, “I don’t have kids in public school.” I explained I’m a homeschool mom, working the polls in my free time for school board candidates because public education impacts all of us. 

Seventy-five percent of North Carolina children attend public schools, down from 85% a few years ago. Enrollment spiraled with COVID as students struggled with remote learning, mandates, and parental discovery of school-sponsored pornographic materials and politically charged curriculum. A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics revealed that North Carolina student test scores are the lowest in two decades on national math and reading tests. This devastating report should shake up undecided voters, and at least pique the interest of those who previously dismissed the idea of voting for school board.

The report damages the North Carolina Association of Educators’ assertion that “learning loss is a false construct” as they try and distract from abysmal performance and school violence. Even though half of our state budget and 60 percent of local taxes fund our failing educational system, clear mismanagement of your money isn’t the most critical issue. 

Churning out unprepared students at a graduation rate of 90% in Wake County, for instance, translates into an undereducated population. We can think broadly about what this means for national security or society’s workforce to have a dumbed-down public, ill-prepared to think critically, or use basic reading and math skills. But to put it more personally, public school students will be the people marrying your children, in charge of your healthcare, and making laws. They will decide your tax rates and your personal and religious freedoms. Their worldviews are being shaped by schools, which impacts our entire culture. What affects them affects you. 

Although some voters might not notice until it’s too late, the damage being done by inept, leftist school boards has awakened a sleeping giant with parents demanding accountability at school board meetings and candidates running on slogans such as “Give Schools Back To Parents.” The movement has created a scrappy class of parental rights activists and influencers.

After peering over their children’s shoulders at classwork while school was remote, parents in disbelief exchanged screenshots of politically motivated questions on tests and excerpts of erotic material assigned in class. North Carolina Values Coalition sponsored three “Mama Bear Workshops” to expose indoctrination in schools, with some material so graphic organizers put a QR code on the screen for private viewing. Some Wake County school board members like Chair Lindsay Mahaffey and Heather Scott deny these obscene materials are inappropriate for children, fueling the fires even more to call for legislative action. 

North Carolina State legislators responded to constituents by introducing parental rights legislation, House Bill 775, “The Parental Bill of Rights,” following other states’ response to public outcry. The legislation cited provisions for allowing parental preview of the curriculum before assigned, and blocked education about sexual orientation and gender identity from K-3rd grade. The House and Senate could not agree on the language, but supporters hope the bill will be strengthened even more and reintroduced this coming session. 

Despite some voter disinterest, school board races are arguably some of the most important in the state. They may be on the back of your ballot, at the very bottom, but it’s these candidates who will have the power to put our state back on top. 

Laura Macklem is the Press and Political Director for NC Values Coalition