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Opinion: Moms for Liberty gets a foothold on school boards

In Pennsylvania, candidates running for local school boards can cross file, meaning that this office is intended to be nonpartisan, just as judicial offices are.

Intent and reality are clashing in some school districts in the five-county Times News region of Carbon, Schuylkill, Monroe, Northampton and Lehigh counties as evidenced by the results in last week’s primary elections.

Slates of candidates were on both Democratic and Republican ballots, especially in some hotly contested Lehigh Valley school districts such as Parkland, East Penn, Southern Lehigh and Saucon Valley.

Despite generally ho-hum primaries where voter turnout was abysmally low, there was keen interest in some of these school board races where competing slates are attempting to establish majorities to promote their respective agendas.

Although it was not a major factor in most local races this time around, depending on where you live, the group Moms for Liberty is having an increasingly stronger involvement in fielding candidates for local school board races.

Several districts had candidates who are members or affiliated with this group. The endorsed candidates by the Northampton County Moms for Liberty affiliate did fairly well, and group organizers said they are just getting started and expect to see even more promising results in future elections. Of six candidates it backed, the Northampton County affiliate was able to place four on the Republican ballots for the General Election. It was the only local affiliate to publicly back candidates in the recent primaries.

Four of the five counties have Moms for Liberty organizations in place. The only one for which I cannot find an affiliation is Carbon County, although I am told that efforts are underway to have Carbon join the national organization’s umbrella, possibly by later this year.

According to their stated objectives, Moms for Liberty is “dedicated to the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”

The organization has become a flash point in the ongoing controversy over the direction in which education is headed, and administrators and educators are wary of the organization because they feel it is stirring up opposition to the way schools are teaching and, specifically, what they are teaching and the materials being used.

Established as a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit organization, Moms for Liberty advocates against school curriculums that mention LGBT rights, critical race theory, race and discrimination and opposes sexualized content in reading materials, especially in school libraries. Individual chapters have been active in banning books from these libraries. Among the closest to our area to have done this is in the Central Bucks School District headquartered in Doylestown, 55 miles southeast of Lehighton.

Moms for Liberty was founded about 2½ years ago by two former Florida school board members. Originally, the group was opposed to mask mandates and has since broadened its reach into school curriculum and other education-related issues.

At their first national conference last July, the group said that it had nearly 100,000 members in 195 chapters in 37 states. Its reach has strengthened substantially since then, according to co-founder Tina Descovich. She said the organization’s goal is to have a Moms for Liberty chapter in every county in the country and, long-term, to have a Moms for Liberty member on every school board in the land.

In its manifesto, the Moms for Liberty group in Monroe County says it is organized to “unify, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights in the educational system.”

It aims to do this, according to the manifesto, by “holding leaders accountable, spreading awareness, opposing government overreaching, promoting liberty, engaging with communities on key issues and by activating liberty-minded leaders to serve in elected positions.”

Critics accuse Moms for Liberty of deepening divisions between parents and educators by making it more challenging for school officials and teachers to do their jobs.

Those who oppose Moms for Liberty contend that the group’s aggressiveness is having its impact on many teachers and administrators who are afraid to speak out for fear of being targeted by the group.

Writing in Media Matters for America, Olivia Little found that the group, which has quickly gained substantial media attention, has become a “right-wing sweetheart and mainstream spectacle.” She went on to say that the organization “has attempted to paint itself as a grassroots entity driven entirely by passionate parents, but, in reality, it benefits from right-wing funding and ties to traditional Republican political figures.”

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.