Campaign season is in full swing for school board elections this fall across Minnesota. The executive director of Minnesota Parents Alliance, Cristine Trooien, joined Liz Collin Reports to discuss what’s on the line and how a voter guide the group put together aims to inform voters this November.
“Our mission is to educate and empower Minnesota families to be strong advocates for academic achievement, equality, and parental rights. I think that those three themes really encompass most of what parents are concerned about in our K-12 system,” Trooien said.
“The second piece of the mission is not so much our mission, but it’s the mission of public schools that I think we need to have a conversation about and that’s really what’s driving a lot of candidates to step forward and run this year. If you were raised in Minnesota, we know how to do public schools well, or historically we’ve had good public schools. But I think that we have drifted away from the original mission of our public schools … I’ve really tried to speak to parent groups and other people that are talking about, how do we get K-12 back on track and return back to that original mission statement in Minnesota?” Trooien added.
The organization put together its first voter guide in 2022 with endorsements of parent-centered candidates. In its first year, the group endorsed 120 school board candidates statewide, and 50 of them won their races.
On this year’s school board races, Trooien said there are a lot to watch despite it being an “off year.”
The ones that are on the ballot this year represent some of the largest districts in the state. “When people are like, what’s the big race this year? Well, the big race in terms of importance, it’s the one that your kid is in,” she said.
“I think they’re all important,” Trooien added.
She also pointed out that Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest district, is one to watch.
“They have an opportunity to change the composition of their school board to an achievement-focused, parent-centered majority which would really afford them the opportunity to focus on policies and practices and advancing things that are going to help close the achievement gap,” she said.
Nearly 200 candidates have thrown their hat in the ring to run for the more than 100 open school board seats across the state. Minnesota Parents Alliance has endorsed 44 candidates.
“This is no one’s get-rich-quick scheme and they’re carving out dedicated time and energy, time away from their own families and really this comes at a personal sacrifice to the people that are running. It’s because they realize what’s at stake and how important it is for parents to regain a seat at the table,” Trooien said.
Trooien acknowledged the difficulty of running against Education Minnesota candidates who have more money and resources.
“I think that’s a big reason why our organization exists is because we recognized back in the 2021 election cycle that the average parent is really up against a machine of opposition and that comes in the form of teachers unions and special interests and politicians and other people that really seek to influence those local election spaces,” she said.
“I think we’re sort of at this crossroads moment. I think the election in November will be really telling. Voters are awakened to what’s going on. I think they’re very aware. There’s certainly been a lot more discussion about K-12 issues,” she continued. “It has the attention of Minnesota voters and the response that we’ve gotten to our voter guide and to our effort to get out into communities has been one of praise and thanking us for organizing and elevating this movement. I think that we’re expecting a really good result.”
Early voting begins on Sept. 22. Election Day is Nov. 7.