RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Local school boards around the country are increasingly becoming cauldrons of anger and political division, boiling with disputes over such issues as COVID-19 mask rules, the treatment of transgender students and how to teach the history of racism and slavery in America.
Meetings that were once orderly, even boring, have turned ugly. School board elections that were once uncontested have drawn slates of candidates galvanized by one issue or another.
A June school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia, that dealt with transgender students and the teaching of “critical race theory” became so unruly that one person was arrested for disorderly conduct and another was cited for trespassing.
In Rapid City, South Dakota, and Kalispell, Montana, nonpartisan school board races devolved into political warfare as conservative candidates, angered over requirements to wear masks in schools, sought to seize control.
In Pennsylvania, a Republican donor is planning to pour $500,000 into school board races.
“We’re in a culture war,” said Jeff Holbrook, head of Rapid City’s Pennington County GOP.
In South Carolina’s Lexington-Richland school system, a new majority of board members upset over pandemic restrictions forced out the superintendent, Christina Melton, who had pushed to keep a mask requirement in place through the end of the academic year. She had been honored just weeks earlier as the state’s superintendent of the year.
Melton broke into tears at a meeting in June as she offered her resignation. A board member also quit that day, complaining the body decided behind closed doors to force Melton out and avoid a public vote. The board censured the departed member at its next meeting.
“Now we’re known as the district with the crazy school board,” said Tifani Moore, a mother with three children and a husband who teaches in the district.
Moore is running for the empty board seat and promises to tamp down the political split, which she worries has crippled the board.
“It’s so thick, even the kids feel it,” she said.
School boards are typically composed of former educators and parents whose job, at least until recently, mostly consisted of ironing out budgets, discussing the lunch menu or hiring superintendents.
But online meetings during the pandemic made it easier for parents to tune in. And the crisis gave new gravity to school board decisions. Parents worried their children were falling behind because of remote learning or clashed over how serious the health risks were.
“I saw over and over again frustrated parents, thousands of parents, calling into their board meetings, writing letters and getting no response,” said Clarice Schillinger, a Pennsylvania parent who formed a group called Keeping Kids in School.
She recruited nearly 100 parents to run in November for school boards across Pennsylvania. While the group coalesced around pushing for schools to fully open, its candidates have also sought to bar the teaching of critical race theory, which among other things holds that racism is embedded in America’s laws and institutions
Schillinger said the group is split 70-30 between Republicans and Democrats. But its priorities are unmistakably conservative. She said it is trying to counter the sway teachers unions have over school boards: “It’s really less government — that’s what this comes down to.”
Paul Martino, a venture capitalist who donates to Republican candidates and pledged a half-million dollars to the movement and the creation of a statewide political action committee, said the new PAC will support candidates committed to keeping schools open no matter what, “even if there is the dreaded fall COVID surge.”
Conservative slates of candidates elsewhere across the country have also set their sights on school boards.
In Rapid City, four recently elected school board members will hold a controlling vote on the seven-member body, which oversees the education of roughly 14,000 students. In an area where Trump flags still fly, the four candidates for the usually nonpartisan board secured an endorsement in the June election from the local GOP.
In previous elections, seats on the board were often filled in uncontested elections. But this year, the campaigns turned into political battles, complete with personal attacks.
Critical race theory is not a part of the Rapid City school curriculum. But that didn’t stop candidates from making it a central issue of the campaign.
“I believe with all my heart this is how they are going to slip socialism and Marxism into our schools,” newly elected member Deb Baker said at a campaign event.
Curt Pochardt, who was unseated as the school board president in the election, said he worries the new partisan dynamic will hurt students’ education.
“It doesn’t help kids when there’s tension on a school board,” he said.
Education experts warn that school boards are squandering time that could be spent tackling issues such as recruiting teachers, ensuring students have internet access at home or improving opportunities for youngsters with disabilities.
“Every time we’re not talking about those issues and we’re talking about something else that’s divisive and it may not be happening at all — or at least not to the level it’s being portrayed — is lost opportunity for what we really need to be focused on,” said Chip Slaven, chief advocacy officer for the National School Boards Association.
In Kalispell, one losing school board candidate who campaigned against mask mandates made it clear he is not finished.
“I am the barbed spine of the jumping cholla cactus,” Sean Pandina told the board in May. “I’m the cholla in your flesh that you cannot remove. I’m comfortable with losing the election because I have latched on and am not going away.”
Associated Press reporters Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina and Iris Samuels in Helena, Montana contributed. Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Roe v. Wade: How abortion came to divide US politics – CTV News
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, the issue has become one of the defining fault lines in U.S. politics, with Democratic politicians firmly supporting abortion rights and Republican lawmakers lining up in opposition.
In 1973 the lines were more blurred. Republican and Democratic voters were equally likely to say abortion should be legal, while it was easy to find Republican officials who supported abortion rights and Democrats who opposed the procedure.
So what changed?
NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE AT FIRST
Abortion on demand was legal in four states in the early 1970s, while 14 more allowed it under some circumstances.
While the Catholic Church opposed abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination, was on record saying it should be allowed in many circumstances.
Neither party viewed abortion as a defining issue.
Republicans like first lady Betty Ford said the Roe decision was “a great, great decision,” while some Democrats, like a newly elected senator named Joe Biden, said the court’s ruling went “too far.”
Voters also did not see the issue along partisan lines. The General Social Survey opinion poll found in 1977 that 39% of Republicans said abortion should be allowed for any reason, compared to 35% of Democrats.
A CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT MOBILIZES
In the years that followed, conservative activists like Phyllis Schlafly seized on the issue as a threat to traditional values and enlisted evangelical churches, which had shown a new interest in politics following a series of court rulings that limited prayer in public settings.
These groups portrayed abortion as a threat to the family structure, along with broader social developments like gay rights, rising divorce rates, and women working outside of the home. For pastors and parishioners, abortion became a proxy issue for concerns about a liberalizing society, said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at University of California-Davis.
“For many evangelicals, this was more about family and women and sex,” she said.
In 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution opposing abortion, reversing its earlier position.
Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory that same year gave abortion opponents a powerful ally in the White House. At the same time, women’s rights activists gained more influence within the Democratic Party and pushed leaders to support abortion rights.
But support for Roe still did not line up along party lines.
In a 1983 Senate vote, 34 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned the Roe decision, while 19 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against it.
Biden was among those voting no, even though he had backed the legislation in committee the previous year.
POLITICIANS PICK SIDES – VOTERS FOLLOW
In the years that followed, the dividing lines became more apparent as political candidates found it increasingly necessary to align with activists who were becoming more influential within their parties.
Republican George H.W. Bush, an abortion opponent who had earlier supported abortion rights, won the presidency in 1988. In 1992 he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton, an abortion rights supporter who had earlier opposed abortion.
Since 1989, abortion-rights groups have donated $32 million to Democrats and $3 million to Republican candidates who support keeping abortion legal, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. Groups that opposed abortion have given $14 million to Republicans and only $372,000 to Democrats over that time period.
Voters were slower to sort themselves out. As late as 1991, 45% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans said they supported abortion for any reason, according to the General Social Survey.
Partisan differences widened in the following years, however, as the issue became a staple of TV attack ads fundraising appeals and mass rallies by interest groups.
By the turn of the century, only 31% of Republicans supported on-demand abortion, while Democratic support remained steady at 45%, according to the General Social Survey.
BOTH SIDES DIG IN
Other opinion polls have consistently shown that most Americans support some restrictions on abortion but oppose an outright ban.
At the same time, Democrats have grown more absolute in their support for abortion rights.
Biden, who supported a ban on federal funding for most abortions in the Medicaid program for the poor for most of his political career, reversed his position as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
In the current Congress, only one House Democrat and one Senate Democrat voted against legislation that would make abortion legal nationwide under all circumstances. The bill failed in the Senate, but Democrats have said they plan to make it a central issue in the November 2022 elections.
Among Democratic voters, support for unrestricted abortion has jumped from 56% in 2016 to 71% last year, according to the General Social Survey, while Republican support continues to hover around 34%.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Lisa Shumaker
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Politics Briefing: Ottawa police preparing for protests at Canada Day celebrations – The Globe and Mail
Ottawa police say they are preparing for protests at this week’s Canada Day celebrations, and planning to balance the rights of protestors and those celebrating the holiday.
“We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour,” Steve Bell, the interim Ottawa police chief, told a news conference on Monday.
Mr. Bell said the police are rallying public-order units, traffic teams and tow trucks and will take “decisive and lawful action” to deal with threats, occupation attempts and other unlawful action.
The city has been the scene of several large demonstrations since supporters of the self-described freedom convoy occupied the downtown core for three weeks in January and February. Now there are concerns about new anti-government protests during Canada Day.
Celebrations in the national capital have been moved from the lawn of Parliament Hill due to reconstruction work on the House of Commons and will be held at LeBreton Flats, west of the downtown core.
“We expect there to be demonstrations. This is a right of all Canadians and it will be protected. We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour and we will not allow vehicle-based demonstration in the motor vehicle control zone,” said Mr. Bell.
The zone refers to an area of downtown Ottawa being established over the Canada Day weekend to prevent the movement of vehicle protests in the area.
”Visitors and community members will see a significant police posture and presence throughout the city,” said the interim chief.
Mr. Bell said officers from the Ottawa police have met with affected community groups in the city affected by the “illegal occupation of our streets,” and take the harm and trauma residents suffered very seriously, and have considered it in planning for Canada Day.
Police liaison officers have also tried to reach out to protest organizers about expectations for appropriate, lawful protest, he said.
Mayor Jim Watson offered a warning to prospective protesters. “There are not going to be warnings and second chances. If the law is broken, regardless of who breaks it, there will be consequences,” he told the news conference.
In late April, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a request from Mr. Bell to appoint up to 831 RCMP officers to help with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle events, and made those appointments valid until July 4.
Meanwhile, a community group called the Ottawa People’s Commission on the Convoy Occupation officially launched Monday with the appointment of three commissioners to hold public hearings on the convoy occupation of the city earlier this year.
The commission, according to a statement, has secured the support of the Centretown Community Health Centre as its anchor agency and fundraising portal and it will deliver a final report within a year. The OPC will be funded by donations from the public, foundations, businesses, unions and local agencies.
“We need this independent, non-partisan inquiry to hear from ordinary citizens, advocacy organizations and social agencies, business owners, workers and others whose lives were turned upside down during the occupation,” said commission spokesman Ken Rubin.
With a file from The Canadian Press.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
GOOD GRADES FOR CANADA’S HANDLING OF COVID-19: NEW STUDY – Canada handled the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and weathered the ensuing upheaval better than several other nations with comparable health-care and economic infrastructure, a new study suggests. Story here.
CONVICTED MURDERERS SEEK PAROLE AFTER COURT RULING – Several men convicted of multiple murders are pressing claims for early chances at parole, after the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s life-without-parole law, retroactive to the legislation’s 2011 enactment. Story here.
LABRETON CONCERNED ABOUT CPC DIRECTION – A former Conservative Senate leader is expressing concern about the direction Pierre Poilievre is taking the party, worrying the Tories might be reaching the point of “fracturing beyond repair.” Story here from Global News.
FREELAND TOUTS BALANCE IN INFLATION STRATEGY – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she must strike a balance between helping Canadians suffering from the effects of inflation and pursuing a policy of fiscal restraint – or risk making the cost of living problem worse. Story here from CBC.
TASK FORCE STRUCK TO DEAL WITH IMMIGRATION/PASSPORT ISSUES -The federal government has created a special task force to help tackle the major delays with immigration applications and passport processing that have left Canadians frustrated. Story here from CTV.
MENDICINO “DEEPLY COMMITTED” TO RCMP OVERSIGHT – The federal Public Safety Minister says he is “deeply committed” to enhancing oversight of the RCMP by strengthening the role of the national police force’s management advisory board. Story here.
BECK TO LEAD SASKATCHEWAN NDP – Saskatchewan’s NDP has chosen Carla Beck to be its new leader, making her the first woman to lead the party in 90 years. Story here.
FORMER LEADER DONATED $300,000 TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR TORIES – Ches Crosbie, the former leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Progressive Conservative Party, donated $300,000 to the party last year – more than 40 per cent of its overall income – as it waged a drawn-out and controversial election campaign that was thrown into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic. A political scientist, however, says the situation is further proof that Newfoundland and Labrador’s elections rules are in need of an overhaul. Story here from CBC.
TRUDEAU AND JOHNSON COMPARE PLANES – ‘Very, very modest’: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson vs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whose private jet is smaller. Story here from The Guardian.
CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE
CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in the Ontario community of Corbyville on Monday taking part in the Conservative Leadership Meet & Greet hosted by the Hastings-Lennox and Addington Conservative Electoral District Association. Patrick Brown is in also in Corbyville, Belleville and Richmond Hill on Monday. Jean Charest is also in Belleville on Monday. There was no campaign information available for Roman Baber, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre.
MACKAY BACKS POILIEVRE – Pierre Poilievre says, in a tweet, that Elmer MacKay is backing him for the Conservative leadership. Mr. MacKay was a cabinet minister under former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He is the father of Peter MacKay, who was a cabinet minister under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, and who also sought the Conservative leadership in 2020. “Pierre’s message of affordability and freedom is resonating widely,” Elmer MacKay said in a statement attached to Mr. Poilievre’s tweet. “I know he has what it takes to be our next Prime Minister.”
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20
DUCLOS IN MONTREAL – Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was in Montreal to make a funding announcement on long-term care in Quebec.
FORD MEETS TORY – In Toronto, Premier Doug Ford met with Toronto Mayor John Tory at Queen’s Park, with the pair scheduled to hold a joint news conference after their discussions.
GOULD IN WINNIPEG – Families Minister Karina Gould is to make an announcement, in Winnipeg, with Manitoba’s Education Minister Wayne Ewasko on increasing licensed child-care spaces and the implementation of a wage grid for the child-care work force.
ALGHABRA IN OSHAWA – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was in Oshawa, Ont., to announce about $14 -million for an expansion project at the port of Oshawa.
On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Hannah Sung, co-founder of Media Girlfriends, host of the podcast At The End of the Day and BTS fan, explains what makes the superstar K-pop group BTS so popular and why they’re so influential. BTS announced recently that they are taking a temporary break as a group and pursuing individual projects. This moment was a big deal for their millions of fans worldwide, the company that brings in billions of dollars managing them and for South Korea, which considers its members cultural ambassadors for the country. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
In Elmau, Germany, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attending the Group of Seven summit, was scheduled to hold meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as well as Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to participate in the G7 Working Session, entitled The World in Conflict: Exchange on Ukraine as well as a working luncheon with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations, and to participate in the official family photo with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to meet with Senegal President Macky Sall, and to participate in a working session with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations, entitled Stronger Together: Addressing Food Security and Advancing Gender Equality. Beyond that, the Prime Minister was scheduled to meet with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then meet with Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia. And the Prime Minister’s summit day was expected to end with a dinner with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
No schedules released for party leaders.
Fifty-two per cent of Canadians are pessimistic about the future of Canada, a considerably higher finding than responses in recent years, according to new research by the Angus Reid Institute. Meanwhile, in the Conservative leadership race, MP Pierre Poilievre continues is the most appealing option to 26 per cent of Canadians, followed closely by former Quebec premier Jean Charest (21 per cent). Details here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how francophones outside Quebec became the minority English Canada forgot about: “The Quebec government of Premier François Legault has been criticized, and with good reason, for invoking the notwithstanding clause to curtail the rights of the province’s English-speakers in his flagship language reform, Bill 96. It’s no excuse – as Mr. Legault sometimes falsely suggests – but francophones outside of Quebec often face an even less hospitable reality. Without succumbing to issue-dodging whataboutism, or pretending that two minority communities wronged somehow makes it all right, it’s worth reflecting on the perennial battle for survival waged mostly under the radar in Shediac and Sudbury and St. Boniface. Too often, a basic level of respect eludes French-speaking communities in the Rest of Canada.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how it’s time for Canada to get serious about defence: “The Liberal government’s $4.9-billion commitment to modernizing NORAD represents an important step in preparing Canada for this increasingly dangerous world. But it’s only a start. With threats to the left of us in the Indo-Pacific, to the right in Europe, and with Russia to our north, this country must get serious about defence.”
Richard French (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the PMO wields too much power in Ottawa: “Similar criticisms have been heard in Ottawa since the arrival of the current government. But perhaps there is a novelty here. I would argue that, while the centralization of power in Westminster prime ministerships always reflects the personal character and desire of the person in the office, in our case today, the person in the office does not want to dominate his government. He wants the Prime Minister’s Office to dominate it for him and is quite content to be its creature. What we have in Ottawa is the Justin Trudeau Regency.”
Fahad Razak, Arthur Slutsky and David Naylor (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how we need new strategies to tackle COVID-19 this fall: “But governments also need a new storyline – one that celebrates the effects of vaccines in preventing serious disease and death, while acknowledging the declining marginal yields of repeated administration of current vaccines when it comes to preventing infection with later variants. That shift explains evolving vaccine mandates and underpins the case for vaccines currently in development and regulatory review. It’s also counterproductive to talk about two doses as “full vaccination” – the number of vaccine doses needed for protection against serious COVID-19 varies by age, health status and circulating variant. Public-health restrictions must also evolve. Not because of the lies being told about their past ineffectiveness, but because every effort should be made to avoid broad-brush restrictions on public gatherings, as well as school and business shutdowns.”
Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on why B.C. Premier John Horgan may defy speculation and lead the B.C. NDP into the next provincial election: “One can readily imagine why Horgan might have decided to go. He’s been through a lot on the health front. He’d be leaving the NDP in a strong position in the opinion polls and with two years to regroup under a new leader. But it is easy to come up with a rationale for a decision to stay. He loves the job, leastways he has done so up to this point. There’s no one waiting in the wings with his communication skills and populist touch. The government faces huge challenges with inflation, the crisis in health care, and public sector bargaining. His rivalry with B.C. Liberal leader Kevin Falcon is personal. Horgan would like to beat him, not have people think that he walked away from a fight. The latter scenario is the preferred one for most New Democrats.”
Politics Podcast: What The Politics Of Abortion Look Like Now – FiveThirtyEight
In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn constitutional abortion rights. Which states now have abortion bans in place, how have Americans across the political spectrum responded with protests and celebrations, and how could this decision impact the midterm elections?
The podcast also analyzed two more notable opinions released by the Supreme Court in the last few days: the ruling on gun restrictions that has significant implications for gun control in five other states and a ruling on prayer at public schools.
Finally, the team does a quick tour of the biggest primary elections in Illinois, New York, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah on Tuesday.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
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