Teachers union far outspent parent groups in 2023 school board elections

The disparity in campaign spending, and its affect on the electoral outcome, is evident across many of the districts studied.

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht speaks at a press conference at the State Capitol. (Education Minnesota/Facebook)

Across the most competitive school board races in Minnesota, left-wing groups and candidates significantly outspent their pro-parent opponents, an Alpha News analysis found. 

Alpha News examined the campaign finance reports of school board candidates, teachers unions, and pro-parent organizations during the 2023 Minnesota school board elections. The numbers show that teachers unions and their candidates enjoyed a distinct advantage in spending.

Throughout the 11 school districts Alpha News analyzed, Education Minnesota, its affiliate local teachers unions, and its endorsed candidates spent $379,126 during the 2023 school board elections. Conversely, the Minnesota Parents Alliance, its endorsed candidates, and other pro-parent groups spent $294,797, the Alpha News analysis found.

The 11 school districts examined were Anoka-Hennepin, Hastings, Minnetonka, Mounds View, South Washington County, Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley, Stillwater, Fridley, Roseville, Bloomington, and Duluth.

Across the six most-competitive districts (Anoka-Hennepin, Mounds View, Rosemount, South Washington County, Hastings, and Minnetonka), Education Minnesota, its affiliate local teachers unions, and its endorsed candidates spent $325,916. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Parents Alliance, its endorsed candidates, and other pro-parent groups spent $266,341 across the same six school districts, according to the Alpha News analysis.

Education Minnesota’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. (Alpha News)

Education Minnesota is one of the largest and most powerful unions in the state. Through its political action committee, Education Minnesota PAC, the teachers union works to elect candidates who will represent “the collective voice of 84,000 educators.”

The Minnesota Parents Alliance is an organization whose stated objective “is to effectively and efficiently channel the momentum of the parent movement into positive and lasting changes for education in Minnesota.” The Minnesota Parents Alliance endorses candidates who support this mission.

The disparity in campaign spending, and its affect on the electoral outcome, is evident across many of the districts studied.

The Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley school district saw significant lopsided spending by Education Minnesota and its partners. With four seats up for election, Education Minnesota and its affiliated union, Dakota County United Educators, dropped $64,386 on the race to elect their slate of candidates. Minnesota Parents Alliance spent just over $15,000 to support their candidates in the district.

The four Education Minnesota-endorsed candidates (Sachin Isaacs, Cory Johnson, Jackie Magnuson, and Anna Williams) won all four seats up for election.

Left-wing spending also greatly eclipsed pro-parent spending in South Washington County’s school board election. Education Minnesota, its local affiliate teacher union, and their endorsed candidates spent over $45,000 to win the three seats up for election in the district. The Minnesota Parents Alliance, its endorsed candidates, and another pro-parent group spent just over $28,000 to win the seats.

Two Education Minnesota-endorsed candidates (Simi Patnaik and Melinda Dols) won seats on South Washington County’s school board. The remaining seat was won by Ryan Clarke who was endorsed by the Minnesota Parents Alliance.

In Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest school district, three seats were up for election on the six-member school board. In all three seats, the Education Minnesota-endorsed candidates outspent their Minnesota Parents Alliance-endorsed opponents. However, pro-parent groups spent $82,327 in Anoka-Hennepin while teachers unions spent $43,934. In total, the Minnesota Parents Alliance, their candidates, and another pro-parent group spent roughly $116,735 on the three seats in Anoka-Hennepin. Education Minnesota, their local union, and their candidates spent $104,174.

Linda Hoekman and Zach Arco, candidates endorsed by the Minnesota Parents Alliance, each won a seat on the school board. The final seat up for election was won by Michelle Langenfeld, an Education Minnesota-endorsed candidate.

‘Bottomless pile of money’

This analysis was put together after hours of examining individual campaign finance documents.

Instead of having a central organized system that allows citizens to easily know who is spending money to influence their choices, candidates and groups report their spending to their local governments. These local governments accept and organize the documents in very different manners.

As a result, campaign finance documents for school board elections often have conflicting information, duplicate reports, and a lack of uniformity.

Furthermore, the method by which school board campaign finances are reported has been the subject of scrutiny and complaint in recent weeks. In December, a panel of judges issued an order saying Education Minnesota told their affiliated teachers unions to ignore the law regarding proper reporting of campaign finances.

After following the unlawful instructions of Education Minnesota, Dakota County United Educators was fined for failing to report their campaign finance expenditures in accordance with the law.

In a statement to Alpha News, Cristine Trooien, the executive director of Minnesota Parents Alliance, spoke about the campaign spending that occurred during 2023 school board elections.

“Since the election, a number of parents and community members are discovering that unions, union-aligned organizations and some of the candidates they supported did not file campaign finance reports in a timely and/or accurate manner,” she said.

Minnesota Parents Alliance Executive Director Cristine Trooien speaks with Alpha News. (Alpha News)

“For example, voters may have received campaign mail (one of the most expensive campaign strategies to execute) but that expenditure was never reported or was only reported long after the election. So unfortunately voters were not and/or are still not able to get an accurate total of how much unions and their allies spent trying to influence local elections. But from what has been reported to date, it is clear that the unions and their friends infused hundreds of thousands of dollars into local campaigns in a reveling and desperate attempt to keep achievement-focused parents off their local school boards.

“It is absurd that Education Minnesota held a press conference in August to accuse achievement-focused, parent-endorsed candidates of being part of a well-funded, coordinated effort of ‘national dark money’ to control local school boards, when in fact that is an exact description of what they, the unions and their political allies, have been engaged in for years and will continue to do with the bottomless pile of money they collect from teachers.”

Alpha News reached out to Education Minnesota for comment. However, the teachers union did not respond in time for publication.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.