Opinion: Voter faith in local schools won over outside influence

“I’m a Georgia Voter” stickers on the table at a metro Atlanta polling location for the Georgia primary runoff elections on Tuesday. Voters in Cherokee and Coweta counties rebuffed school board candidates who contended schools were teaching critical race theory.

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“I’m a Georgia Voter” stickers on the table at a metro Atlanta polling location for the Georgia primary runoff elections on Tuesday. Voters in Cherokee and Coweta counties rebuffed school board candidates who contended schools were teaching critical race theory.

Voters in Cherokee and Coweta counties made clear Tuesday they would not sacrifice their school boards to political theatrics, rebuffing candidates in the runoff elections who said districts were in the grip of an anti-America fervor.

The losing school board candidates in both counties made such allegations with the support and tutelage of the New York-based 1776 Project, a political action committee that urges Americans to report a school promoting critical race theory.

CRT is a sophisticated academic framework that examines the role of race and racism in American law and institutions. It has become the 2022 version of the communist hiding under the bed, seeking to indoctrinate our children and force us into bread lines and Mao jackets.

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The contention that critical race theory was afoot in Cherokee and Coweta and the recasting of social and emotional learning as psychological manipulation comes out of a playbook being deployed across the country by practitioners of wedge politics. While no evidence exists that any K-12 public schools in Georgia teach CRT, the term has been appropriated to represent anything perceived as liberal-leaning, from children’s books that include gay families to programs to stop bullying.

In its literature, the 1776 Project accuses public schools of teaching history classes that “are incredibly hostile to white people, Western civilization, classical liberalism, the enlightenment, the founding of America, and capitalism.” The organization contends, “It is up to us to fight their agenda in every school board election where this theory is tolerated, promoted, and forced upon America’s children.”

The 1776 Project PAC invested in school board elections in Cherokee and Coweta, historically and reliably conservative counties. Residents of both counties found flyers in their mailboxes, warning, “Critical race theory is in our schools” and “Elementary schoolchildren are given books about what it means to be transgender.”

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That a few of these candidates drew enough voters to land in a runoff speaks to the power of misinformation, innuendo and exaggeration when expertly delivered and packaged. Any small sign of tolerance in the schools was brandished as proof the woke mob was breaching the walls — even a Woodstock High School diversity week flyer created by a student club encouraging classmates to wear T-shirts in assorted colors to raise awareness about disabilities, gender, racial and LGBTQ rights.

The audience for these messages is white parents who prefer any unsightly blemish in American history minimized. They want a sanitized and edited curriculum taught to the soundtrack of “God Bless America” by teachers with their hands over their hearts and the mouths of anyone seeking a true telling of U.S. history.

The runoff results show voters didn’t believe their districts were falling into a liberal abyss. In Cherokee, two of the four candidates supported by the 1776 PAC and united under the banner of “4CanDoMore” foundered in the May primary; the others lost in this week’s runoff. In Coweta, three of the backed candidates were defeated last month, and one lost in Tuesday’s runoff.

Holly Jones, a 27-year Cherokee resident, was alarmed over the infusion of outside influence and money in a local school board contest. “My problem with this group was that this is a nationally backed AstroTurf campaign going on throughout the country with a very specific objective, and that objective is to completely dismantle public education in the United States,” she said. “I was glad to see that the people of Cherokee County could see through the talking points and rejected the interference from a national PAC.”

“Our school system is great as it is; CRT is not rampant as they claimed it was, and at the end of the day, level heads prevailed,” said Cherokee parent Mark Kunzman.

East Coweta High School Principal Steve Allen released a video plea to voters in his county to reject the 1776 Project PAC candidates, saying, This school system is a great school system. And it needs to stay this way for the kids. Don’t believe the hype. It is time to say enough is enough. I am adamant about this. I know you are tired of hearing this but we’re under attack. So, please do your job. Get out and vote.”

Voters did just that in Coweta and Cherokee, repudiating political manipulation and groundless attacks on the educators that serve their kids. In the final tally, they refused to surrender their own faith in their local schools to a murky political agenda that treated educators as dangerous influences to be contained and corralled.