As a 45-day early voting period began Sept. 22 for about one dozen competitive school district races across the Twin Cities, Education Minnesota — one of the most influential unions in Minnesota politics — hosted a press conference at the State Capitol to warn voters in those communities that competition is not necessarily a good thing.
“The stakes have never been higher,” said Denise Specht, longtime president for the teachers union that represents more than 85,000 public school educators, at a press conference she organized Thursday at the State Capitol in St. Paul.
“These school board races are happening in places, where perhaps, you know, there haven’t been contested elections,” Specht said. “What we are finding is that there are more and more contested races.” Specht didn’t articulate any specifics on which school board races she was referencing.
Minnesota teachers union president Denise Specht expresses frustration that school board races are getting more competitive. "What we're finding is that there are more and more contested races." pic.twitter.com/KP1RqJVWO0
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) September 28, 2023
The list of candidates Education Minnesota has endorsed on its EdMnVotes.org website last week reveals districts it is targeting with its resources: Anoka-Hennepin, Bloomington, Hastings, Minnetonka, Mounds View, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Roseville Area, South Washington County, St. Anthony-New Brighton and West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan. It’s also endorsed candidates in Duluth.
Flanked by a handful of individuals representing progressive grassroots groups and 501c4 organizations that often weigh in on elections and politics, Specht expressed concern during the press conference over what she claimed is a “toxic national movement about to sweep into Minnesota’s school board elections.”
Specht pointed to a number of candidates in 10 closely watched metro area school board races who have been endorsed by Minnesota Parents Alliance, a 501c4 that was founded in 2022 to provide resources to school board candidates challenging Education Minnesota’s slate of candidates.
“These candidates aren’t coming from, you know, a lot of times, they are being funded from a national agenda, and getting national money,” said Specht, who did not provide media members with any current, specific examples of that claim.
Representatives with the Minnesota Parents Alliance dismissed those notions and said Specht’s press conference Thursday neglected to acknowledge the issues that matter most — namely student achievement.
“It was sad but not surprising that there was not one mention of student achievement at a time when academic test scores are at 30-year lows and more than half of Minnesota students can’t read or do math at grade level,” said Cristine Trooien, executive director of the Minnesota Parents Alliance. “If there is one thing we agree with Denise Specht about, it’s that the stakes have never been higher. Minnesotans need to get behind local school board candidates who reflect their values and get out and vote like the future of our students and our state depends on it. Parents are about to put the public back in public schools by winning big again this November and it’s revealing that Education Minnesota is committed to doing everything they can to stop them.”
During the press conference some of the speakers who appeared with Education Minnesota acknowledged they are working with the School Board Integrity Project, a DFL-allied organization that says it is fundraising for more than 60 candidates it’s been training across more than a dozen school board races.
On Monday, the School Board Integrity Project is holding a fundraiser in St. Paul for those candidates, which it hasn’t yet publicly revealed.
Specht shines spotlight on Roseville school board candidate’s anti-Semitic history
The Education Minnesota press conference followed a handful of media reports earlier in the week that revealed a Roseville man who has filed to run in that district’s upcoming school board election has written a book and conducted podcasts denying the existence and magnitude of the Holocaust. That individual, Vaughn Klingenberg, is not actively campaigning, but he is one of seven names that will appear on the ballot for the Roseville Area School Board election that will award seats to the top three vote earners.
Klingenberg is not endorsed by any organizations backing candidates in that race. The Minnesota Parents Alliance has endorsed Alan Holasek, Karl Crump and Adam Meier, while Education Minnesota has endorsed Todd Anderson, Mike Boguszewski and Rose W. Chu.
Specht was joined at her press conference by Beth Gendler, executive director of Twin Cities-based Jewish Community Action, who claimed without providing any specifics that “there are white Christian nationalist groups that are promoting school board candidates across (Minnesota) who would have us believe that teaching kids about diversity, ethnicity, race, gender and accurate American history is destructive.”
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.