While most people’s attention during the May 6 elections was centered on specific items on the ballots like McKinney’s airport and city council seats, The Dallas Morning News points out that North Texas’ school board races appear indicative of changing political trends.
Update 5/17/23 – 3:30 p.m. This article has been updated to better represent its sources and to include the results of Lewisville and Denton ISDs board of trustees elections.
Since the pandemic, heated discussions have taken over school board meetings centered around conservative talking points like bathroom policies, book bans and curriculum content that touches on sexual identity, sex education and critical race theory.
An interesting case study of this unusual focus on school politics is the recent takeover of school districts in Tarrant County, particularly the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. After winning a majority on the school board on May 2022, a group of trustees backed by conservative PACs passed a sweeping set of policies targeted at transgender pronouns, library books and race in August 2022. The next day school board vice president Shannon Braun since 2021, published an opinion piece in The Dallas Morning News celebrating the policy and saying that it was the result of a political action model.
According to The Dallas Morning News, this wave of conservative new school board members elected in many Tarrant County schools was influenced by Patriot Mobile Action (PMA), a Texas nonprofit created in 2022 by a group of executives from the Grapevine-based cellphone company Patriot Mobile. The goal of the group is, according to Patriot Mobile’s website, “to further expand our Christian conservative impact.”
Following its mission statement, which includes saving America by saving schools, educating children with the values of American exceptionalism, banning “critical race theory and Marxist policies” and supporting candidates that stand for Christian conservative values, the PAC participated in the latest May elections by endorsing several candidates to occupy trustee places on several Collin County ISD boards.
However, despite PMA’s support, voters in Frisco, McKinney and Plano as well as other school districts in North Texas voted against candidates backed by the conservative movement.
In Denton ISD all three conservative candidates lost the elections. For place 6 on the board of trustees, voters moved away from Charlie Stinson, who in his previous bid in 2022 had requested former president Donald Trump for endorsement, and Terry Senne, whose campaign platform focused on Godly values and the supposed sexualization of children in education, in favor of Lori Tays, a pediatric ER nurse who has "experience collaborating with differing personalities and egos" and using her "strong communication and critical thinking skills to achieve common goals."
Also for place 7, voters reelected Patsy Sosa-Sanchez against Carolyn Rachaner, whose platform focused on parent participation in education and concerns about a "diversity and inclusion agenda" filtering in the school curriculum.
Similarly in Lewisville ISD, Michelle Alkhatib and Stacey Baker won places 6 and 7 respectively against Mindy Bumgarner who pledge to remove obscene materials from classrooms and libraries and Ashley Jones who said was against critical race theory being taught at school.
In McKinnney all three PMA-backed candidates were rejected, and incumbents were returned to office. In Plano, where PMA didn’t endorse candidates, voters rejected more conservative candidates on the ticket, electing Tarrah Lantz and Katherine Chan Goodwin instead. Incumbent Cody Weaver, who expressed concern about culturally conservative issues, was not reelected, despite being recommended by some.
As reported by The Dallas Morning News, while PMA’s candidates had better results in less diverse suburbs like Southlake and Keller, two school districts that adopted controversial policies in recent years, and in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD where the movement had already taken hold, voters in Frisco, McKinney, Plano, Lewisville and Denton seem to be shifting away from divisive politics in favor of more moderate candidates.