EducationLocal NewsConservative Trend Emerges in May School Board Races in Texas

Candidates prioritizing transparency, thrift, and apolitical curriculum trounced candidates focusing on test elimination, diversity measures, and funding hikes.
May 10, 2022
High-profile Texas school board races saw a wave of victories for conservative candidates on Saturday.

While the vast, decentralized Texas school system can make statewide trends difficult to spot, an undeniable pattern emerged on election night: candidates prioritizing transparency, thrift, and rigorous but apolitical curriculum trounced candidates focusing on test elimination, diversity measures, and funding hikes.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi endorsed three candidates in the Spring Branch ISD board elections: Lisa Alpe, John Perez, and Caroline Bennett. All three won.

The state GOP also endorsed Scott Bowen, an incumbent trustee and self-described conservative on the Clear Creek ISD school board who won his race.

Tammy Nakamura and Kathy Florence-Spradley, who both campaigned on the goal of depoliticizing the classroom, picked up both school board seats on the ballot in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD.

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State Rep. Gary Gates (R-Richmond) endorsed two candidates that won spots on the Fort Bend ISD board, with one ousting incumbent trustee Jim Rice, who also heads the Texas Association of School Boards. These two candidates, Rick Garcia and David Hamilton, won both races on the ballot.

Incumbent Richardson ISD trustee Eron Linn, a staunch opponent of vouchers and school choice, took last place in the three-way race for his seat. Entrepreneur Sherry Clemens and businesswoman Vanessa Pacheco will compete in a runoff election.

All three candidates endorsed by Lake Travis Families PAC, a group advocating transparency and parental involvement, won their races for the Lake Travis ISD school board: mother Erin Archer, incumbent board president John Aoeuille, and incumbent trustee Kimberly Flasch.

Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX-21) endorsed two school board candidates for Dripping Springs ISD: Tricia Quintero and Olivia Barnard, both basing their platforms around transparency and fiscal responsibility. Both won their elections.

Many of the candidates in this wing also vocally opposed critical race theory, a popularized academic understanding of racism that views it in systematic rather than interpersonal terms. The term is often used to describe ideas inspired by prominent race studies writers like Ibram Kendi or Robin DiAngelo, such as the notions that racism deeply underpins the white American consciousness or that racial discrimination can be used for good.

The Texas curriculum does not include critical theory, but staff training exercises that encourage racial preference or consciousness over colorblindness are widely available and utilized by school systems. District-wide diversity plans that emphasize racial consciousness or inherent white culpability for past wrongs are not uncommon.

Realtor Marvin Lowe, an outspoken opponent of critical race theory, defeated Dallas Morning News-endorsed incumbent trustee Natalie Hebert for Place 2 on the Frisco ISD board.

Stephanie Elad, another candidate with a platform explicitly opposing critical race theory, won the race for Place 3 in the same school district.

A raft of candidates endorsed by the conservative 1776 Project PAC swept all three races on the ballot for the Keller Independent School District (ISD): Micah Young, Sandi Walker, and Joni Shaw Smith, who unseated incumbent trustee Karina Davis in the Place 2 race. The candidates’ answers to a questionnaire by the Keller Council of PTAs are posted on the Keller ISD website.

The same group’s endorsees also won three out of the four seats up for election on the Mansfield ISD school board and two seats in Southlake Carroll ISD, a district that has weathered particularly tumultuous controversy over the diversity measures it proposed in 2020. One of the 1776 Project endorsees was freshman incumbent Andrew Yeager, who took his seat on the board in November 2021 after running on a platform of opposition to the district diversity plan.

Rinaldi said efforts to elect conservative candidates proved unsuccessful in the Coppell and Highland Park ISDs.

There are about a thousand school districts in Texas, each with its own election rules. Not all school districts held elections on Saturday.

These same political concerns shaped school board elections around Texas in November as well, including both trustee races and bond elections.

Rinaldi interpreted the results as a growing movement to return education to basic functions.

“Parents are fed up with far-left school board officials indoctrinating our children with woke garbage. They want them to learn math, science, and reading. They want them to have a successful life and be educated, and this was the parents fighting back,” Rinaldi said.

“I have a four-year-old son. I’d like him to be able to go to public school, and I think about all of the parents that don’t have the financial means to send their kids to private school if their public school fails them.”

Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning group focusing on education policy and the Texas curriculum, called Saturday’s results an expression of divisive politics.

“Decisions at the school board level should be made with the mindset of putting students first. Unfortunately, what we’re currently seeing is a flurry of far-right ideologues politicizing our schools for political gain,” political director Carisa Lopez said.

“We know certain politicians are trying to turn us against schools and teachers, or point the finger at parents, to keep us from coming together to demand that every school gets the resources to provide every child with a quality education, not just the children of the wealthy few. And knowledge is power. By speaking up at school board meetings and voting in local elections, we can make our schools places where every child can thrive.”


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.