Matt Audette decided to run for school board in Anoka-Hennepin last year after months of struggling with distance learning with his own children.
He was elected in a landslide in one of the largest districts in the state and ran on a simple message: no more critical race theory in schools.
But his concerns went much deeper, he told Kendall and Sheila Qualls on the Fully Charged podcast.
“Ultimately, I wasn’t happy with what was happening in the schools during the pandemic,” he said. “It was kind of a convergence of a lot of issues that caused me to go from a parent who was participating to thinking I needed to get involved.”
Audette said in his first year on the board he’s seen firsthand how much of an influence teachers unions have over education. Their political agendas are not aligned with parents, he said.
“They have a very defined political and social agenda that in many ways is not even related to school,” Audette said.
He said school board members are often elected with the backing of teachers unions and are in lockstep with their agenda. This is why parents may find that their concerns are falling on deaf ears, he explained.
“We want our kids to be educated and the political and social agenda are things that are not aligned with parents,” he said. As parents have come forward, “you see that lack of alignment, and it comes out sometimes in a very emotional and heated way.”
Audette said it’s also important for parents to recognize how much power school boards have over their children’s education.
“As a single board member, you don’t have a lot of power, but when the board acts together, they have a lot of power. They decide things like curriculum that is being taught to children. They create policy that decides the ‘rules of the road’ for the district. They set the strategic direction of the schools and set the budget,” he said.
One of the most significant tasks of the board is hiring a superintendent.
“They ultimately decide who will be running the school system. That’s a lot of power if you think about it,” he said.