Despite the strong headwinds against conservative candidates locally and nationally, almost 50 Minnesota Parents Alliance-backed school board candidates claimed victory Tuesday night, the group said.
MPA candidates won seats in 15 of the 19 school districts where they devoted campaign resources, according to Cristine Trooien, executive director of Minnesota Parents Alliance (MPA).
MPA has a three-fold mission, which is focused on academic achievement, equality, and parental rights.
“Those are our three overarching themes of our mission statement. That’s where our candidates were focused. Then tack on the transparency and accountability that parents have been trying to get from their school community. That’s really largely what these candidates were running on,” Trooien said.
She said the winning results indicate these issues transcend political boundaries.
“I do not think people who voted for these candidates were voting straight party. They represent people across the political divide,” she added.
Trooien attributed the success to three things: organization, training, and parents’ passion. She said early organization really paid off.
“That piece was critical,” she said. “Historically, people don’t even think about their school board race until they’re supposed to file for candidacy in August. This year, we had parents that were identifying candidates in their districts and strategizing about who were the strongest candidates to run for open seats as early mid-spring.”
Twenty-two of the 38 candidates who attended one of MPA’s campaign training sessions won their elections.
“We provided a really robust series of training sessions and support for these candidates on how to execute a successful campaign,” Trooien said.
Most importantly, parents were fired up and engaged.
“They [parents] are digging deep in a way that was just astonishing. They made voter contact, did organic door-knocking, meet and greets, and all the things that it takes to win a campaign. They were doing all of those things as if they were full-time employees or employers and with young families. That amount of hard work that went into these campaigns really paid off in most of those districts,” Trooien said.
Forty-nine candidates running with the official MPA endorsement won elections to school boards Tuesday night. Additionally, dozens of candidates who received training, technical assistance, and educational resources won their elections.
MPA said the 15 targeted districts where they won seats include Prior Lake, Elk River, Osseo, Forest Lake, Centennial, Easter Carver County, Hutchinson, Farmington, Waconia, Bemidji, Alexandria, Lakeville, Brainerd, Zumbrota, and Becker.
They also picked up seats in Sartell, Mahtomedi, and Delano. Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, said 71 of its endorsed candidates won seats. The Minnesota Parents Alliance was launched just nine months ago.
Trooien said the new parent-backed board members will have an immediate impact across the state.
“These new 50 members are going to start asking questions. They’re going to start raising the issues that perhaps the incumbent or current school board hasn’t raised,” she said “Those members are going to start to advocate for the issues that aligned with our mission. Are we talking about academics? Is our focus on academics? Is anybody even raising that issue in meetings?”
Trooien said parents have painstakingly listened to every minute of school board meetings for the last year without hearing one mention of academics.
“So these new school board members are going to start asking those tough questions about how we can move the needle with regard to academic performance. And are we using the resources in our budget and our teachers’ time accordingly? So whether there’s one new member on a school board or three or four in some districts, what we are driving at is refocusing our board on the critical issues, which really is, ‘Let’s get our our students back on track after so many months and now almost three years of learning loss,'” she said.
Even though not all of their candidates won, Trooien said good news came out of the election.
“We now have a very engaged group of parent supporters and they aren’t going away,” she said, noting that MPA now has a model for winning.
“It’s a combination of this early identifying of candidates that are going to be strong candidates to run and getting our message out,” she continued. “There are still a lot of parents in these districts that don’t understand what’s going on in our schools. We need to get the message out about what really is going on in our schools and wake parents up so when their next school board election comes around, they’re going to be looking for candidates that align with their values.”
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.