Lincoln Mitchell, US Opinion Correspondent

Why School Board Elections Matter

Flickr/Russ Allison Loar/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A closed elementary school in California.

When Donald Trump and the angry Republicans around him rail against dangerous radicals it is people like Tiger Kennedy Cosmos (yes that is his real name) they fear most. Cosmos is a 54 year old suburban husband and father who goes to work every day at his job working for Hyundai. On weekends or evenings you won’t find Cosmos smashing police cars, scrawling graffiti on public property or inciting violence. However, you can probably find him at home with his wife reading to or playing with his young daughters or, in pre-pandemic days, out volunteering for a range of community organizations.

Cosmos is a candidate for a local school board in Orange County, California and has some ideas that probably strike the MAGA crowd as radical. He believes schools should not reopen unless we can do a better job of protecting the health of children, parents, teachers and others who work at schools. Cosmos also believes that science is important and that all children, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, should have access to a top notch STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Because he wrestled with learning disabilities as a youth before becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, Cosmos also wants to help children with learning disabilities get a good education too. Cosmos summarized his vision for schools in Orange County — “I believe every student in our district, and in our country, deserves the best possible education. On the local school board, we can facilitate that by ensuring the safety of our students and staff, by attracting the best possible teachers to our district, by ensuring fiscal responsibility, and by focusing on educating our students for the 21st century by renewing our focus in STEM programs. ” These are not exactly dangerous ideas, but they are at the center of Cosmos candidacy in this nonpartisan election.

School boards, town and city councils and state and county legislatures are hugely important to American politics, but more importantly to the way Americans live

When Trump and the Republicans try to tar the entire Democratic Party as un-American socialists, it is people like Cosmos, a registered Democrat, who they are targeting. The voters of Orange Country will have to decide for themselves whether Cosmos, a home-owner, business executive and father is really secretly part of some Maoist cell, a global Trotskyite movement or something equally absurd.

The race for the Orange County school board is not exactly drawing the attention of Trump versus Biden, but races like Cosmos’s should not be overlooked. School boards, town and city councils and state and county legislatures are hugely important to American politics, but more importantly to the way Americans live. For example, Cosmos believes people should wear masks and otherwise follow pandemic health protocols. His opponent does not. That may not seem like much, but Cosmos policies would save lives and allow schools to reopen more safely. His opponent’s policies would contribute to deaths and to schools being unable to safely educate children in Orange County.

Serving on the school board is not exactly glamorous. The position does not pay anything, but it takes a lot of time. There are few opportunities to gain media exposure or opine on national politics. Instead school board members, those that approach the position the right way, spend their time trying to make the budgets stretch so as to offer the best education possible, making decisions about curricula and ensuring that schools are safe and children are learning. This is how Cosmos wants to spend his time and to help children throughout the county. His opponent seems more focused on carrying water for the charter school interests that fund his campaigns.

The pandemic and the Trump era have tested the notion of American federalism while also elevating its importance

The race between Biden and Trump is naturally drawing most of the media’s attention as presidential campaigns almost always do. However, during a voting season that will begin in early October when vote by mail starts in many states and likely continue until mid-November when the final mail in ballots are counted, observers of American politics would be wise to watch races like those for the Orange County school board, and in their own communities to vote for solution oriented patriotic Americans like Cosmos.

Collectively, these races are extremely important. The pandemic and the Trump era have tested the notion of American federalism while also elevating its importance. We have seen this in everything from different mask policies in different locales to how the various states have either encouraged voting by mail or used the pandemic as an opportunity to further suppress the vote. If more candidates like Cosmos, who are grounded in reality, committed to working with parents and voters across the political spectrum and genuinely put the interests of America’s children above short term political goals, are elected, the country may just have a shot at recovering from the multiple political and public health traumas of recent months and years.

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