By Thomas Beaumont and Stephen Groves | Associated Press
Mequin, Wisconsin-A loosely connected network of conservative groups with major Republican donors and partisan think tanks is quietly providing firepower to local activists involved in the culture war in schools across the country.
Although they are attracted by the anger of their parents who oppose the school’s racial history policies or COVID-19 agreements (such as mask requirements), these groups are usually run by politicians and lawyers who are prepared to amplify local disputes.
In a wealthy Milwaukee suburb, a law firm heavily funded by the Conservative Foundation has been committed to mitigating climate change and is linked to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, helping to seek the recall of Maquin-Tiens The parents of the members of the Vail School Board of Directors mainly hire diversity consultants on the board of directors. A new national advocacy organization “Parents Defense Education” promotes Wisconsin’s parent strategy as a model.
In Loudoun County, Virginia, a Justice Department spokesperson for the Trump administration called parents for a recall, triggered by opposition to the regional racial equality plan. In Brownsburg, Indiana, the leader of a national parent network that opposes the anti-racism school program helped a mother in the district prevent her from following his Twitter account and obtained a lawyer.
This growing support network highlights the energy and resources that are pouring into the cauldron of political debate in schools across the country. Republicans hope that these efforts will lay the foundation for a comeback in congressional elections next year. Some people think that the explosion of right-wing local organizations is reminiscent of the campaign that helped the Republicans take over the House of Representatives a decade ago.
“To me, this seems to be a tea party,” said Dan Lennington, a lawyer at the conservative Wisconsin Institute of Law and Freedom. “These are all factors that will have an impact on future elections.”
Lenington’s group was partly funded by the Bradley Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Milwaukee that supports conservative causes. The foundation’s secretary and Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell (Cleta Mitchell) advised Trump as he tried to overturn the 2020 election results and has since been working to push for stricter state voting laws.
Like the Tea Party movement, these groups have also been labelled “turf turf” by some opponents-radicalism created by powerful interest groups that look like grassroots organizations.
Jeffrey Henig, a professor at the Teachers College of Columbia University, who wrote about the nationalization of education, said: “Outsiders are paying attention to some real concerns, but the framework of the problem is largely affected by the state. The group is standardized.”
But advocates and their external supporters argue that they are using real anger and working hard to counter the disproportionate influence of liberal groups in schools.
“There is a misunderstanding that this is part of the right-wing agenda in some countries,” said Amber Schroeder, the 39-year-old parent of four children, who is helping lead the recall of Mekuhn. “We are here to oppose the extreme freedom agenda of the teachers’ union.”
The political tracking website Ballotpedia counts about 30 active school board recalls across the country. Some are mainly focused on the controversy of school anti-racism training and education, which are often referred to as critical racial theories. Others are because of the debate about school policies for transgender students and epidemic public health measures.
Local parent activists quickly claimed credit for this work, and external groups that provide legal help, research, organizational tools, and media training are often reluctant to discuss their roles.
These include the Parents Defense Education Organization, an organization based in Arlington, Virginia, which was established in January to “fight indoctrination in the classroom.” It provides templates for requesting public records, parental rights guidelines, organizational strategies, and talking points.
“We created parental defense education because we believe that our children should learn how to think in school-not what to think,” its president, Nicole Nellie, wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
Neily stated that the organization “is not involved in any recalls, in Mequon or elsewhere.” But the organization’s website does promote the activities of Mequon activists. As part of its national parent “incident report” database, the organization highlighted the Mequon case by publishing the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act submitted by parents as a guide for others.
Neily declined to disclose the source of funds for parents to defend their education. As a tax-exempt organization, the organization does not need to disclose its donors. According to the organization’s website, Neily has held senior positions in conservative organizations such as the Independent Women’s Forum and the Cato Institute.
Another new influential group is that the education sector does not turn left. Since it was founded by Elana Fishbein last year, the organization has rapidly expanded to 78 chapters in more than 25 states.
Since December, Fishbein has obtained free legal representation for parents who are struggling with the school district’s curriculum. Most of these lawyers are affiliated with companies similar to Lenington, including the Liberty Justice Center and the Pacific Law Foundation, which also receive funding from the Bradley Foundation, and the well-known Republican donor Dick Ulein (Dick Uihlein), a billionaire of a shipping supplier.
A Uihlein spokesperson declined to comment. The message left to the Bradley Foundation did not get a response.
Fishbein said the journey from the local mother to the nationally recognized conservative activist was very rapid.
“A year ago, I had a few moms in my living room in the suburbs of Philadelphia,” Fishbain said. “Three weeks later, I was in Tucker Carlson, and within a week, my Facebook page had more than 1 million visitors.”
Leaders of Fishbein and similar groups said they believe that conservative activism in schools has exploded because parents carefully checked their children’s homework during distance learning. “Now the whole issue of radical indoctrination is increasing their agenda,” Fishbein said. “This is a very big battle.”
Former Justice Department official Ian Prior is now the executive director of a conservative organization called Fight for Schools, which is working to recall members of the Loudoun County board of directors. He said, This fight may help Republicans participate in next year’s congressional elections.
“You need a team. You will need a commander. You will need what I call the mother army,” he said at a conservative conference in Texas in July.
This may include Schroeder, who described her political activities outside of her previous voting as “zero.”
Mainly because the region signed a $42,000 contract with Milwaukee Diversity Advisor Blacksmith last year. Schroeder got in touch with Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson is the 46-year-old Maquin mother who was No Left Turn’s website examines strategies for challenging the school board.
“All the buzzwords critical of race theory have appeared,” Johnson pointed out, referring to the online Blacksmith seminar she watched. “I think it is not good to regress to a more racially conscious, race-centric society.”
When the Mequin police asked the parents who collected signatures in the city park to remove their signatures, Schroeder contacted Lenington, who wrote a letter to the city claiming that the group had the right to assemble.
This free letter is a small service but allows parents to return to the park.
It also provided an opportunity for Lenington, who was lobbying in the State Capitol, to invite Johnson and Schroeder to testify at a legislative hearing in Madison, requiring the school district to make all courses public.