Education leader: Parents can’t ‘unsee, unhear’ what’s going on in schools

"This isn't a right versus left thing. This is a right versus wrong thing," said Cristine Trooien, the founder of Minnesota Parents Alliance.

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Cristine Trooien talks with Alpha News reporter Liz Collin. (Alpha News)

Cristine Trooien doesn’t like politics. But she found herself advocating for parental rights in schools, and now she calls herself an “accidental activist.”

Trooien runs Minnesota Parents Alliance, an organization that partners with parents to educate and empower them in their relationships with public schools, and backs school board candidates who care about academic achievement.

“I found myself just minding my own business in 2020, like many of us, and watching our school communities unravel,” Trooien told Liz Collin on her podcast this week.

COVID-19 gave parents an opportunity to see what was really going on in schools, which they can’t “unsee and unhear,” Trooien said.

“I felt no other choice but to get involved and try to inspire other parents to get involved, because I really don’t believe that this system is going to fix itself,” she explained.

In 2021, Trooien witnessed many parents stepping up to run for school board without any kind of experience in campaigning. She realized that while these were “fantastic candidates,” they had no support to help them win.

“And so in 2022, we did a lot of things to help. We organized some trainings to help people realize how to actually effectively campaign,” she said.

The organization also put together a voter guide with endorsements of parent-centered candidates. In their first year, they endorsed 120 school board candidates statewide, and 50 of them won their races.

Trooien spoke to the difficulty of running against Education Minnesota candidates who have more money and resources.

“I often tell parents, ‘Listen, it doesn’t really matter whether you are a conservative or a Democrat personally, if you’re going to run against an Education Minnesota candidate, you will be painted as a conservative,'” she explained.

Many of Minnesota Parents Alliance’s candidates are parents who were shut out of their district’s school board meetings with basic concerns like safety and academic achievement.

Some parents are looking for an “exit ramp,” said Trooien. They want higher-quality options for their kids’ schooling, so Minnesota Parents Alliance has also been focused on school choice legislation.

“I have personally seen the bipartisan call for this. This is not a political thing,” said Trooien. “This is a parent thing, and this is really just about, how do we allow parents to make the best choice for their children?”

An event Wednesday night sponsored by the Center of the American Experiment and Minnesota Parents Alliance will feature Corey DeAngelos, a national leader on school choice who educate parents on the school choice movement. The event begins at 5 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel in St. Paul.

Teachers, not activists

Trooien pointed out that her organization has received support from teachers in public schools.

“When I say teacher … we’re talking about professionals who are there to help your children succeed academically, most importantly. I unfortunately think that there now has to be a distinction made between teachers and activists,” Trooien said.

These teachers understand that partnership with parents is imperative to students’ success.

Trooien said she has been encouraged by Alpha News journalist Sheila Qualls’ work with her podcast, “Trapped!: Chaos in the Classroom.”

“I think courage is contagious in all of this, whether you’re talking about parents or teachers. I think as people are starting to become brave and tell their story, we’re all realizing we’re not alone,” Trooien explained.

“We’re seeing an incredible amount of unity brewing in this movement of parents across the political spectrum, all different faith backgrounds, really locking arms to say, ‘What is happening in our K-12 system?'” she added. “This isn’t a right versus left thing. This is a right versus wrong thing.”

To learn more about upcoming events and the mission of Minnesota Parents Alliance, visit minnesotaparents.org.

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Rose Williams
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Rose Williams is an assistant editor for Alpha News.