For a long time, school board elections have been one of the easiest to ignore. Maybe it’s because the names on the ballot don’t stand out as much as the candidates for President, Governor, or U.S. Senate. Maybe it’s because people are too busy to research the candidates. Or maybe it’s because voters who don’t have kids—or whose kids are not in public school—don’t see how school board elections can affect them.
But if 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that even the smallest election has consequences. And nowhere has that been more obvious than with the leftist agendas that have taken over Arizona’s school districts this past year.
In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower announced he was a Republican 10 months before the general election. In June, he resigned his military office to devote full time to his presidential campaign.
Adlai Stevenson was already a Democrat by 1952 but resisted multiple efforts by Democrat partisans to nominate him as their candidate. After his stirring speech at the convention that summer, they did so anyway. Three months later, a president (Eisenhower) was duly elected.
Modest candidates and brief campaigns are now in our receding past. The 2020 presidential race lasted 1,194 days after the first candidate declared. The 2024 election, for practical purposes, started immediately after the previous election. Fully three years out, news and opinion outlets are brimming with the latest poll numbers, candidate statements, and expert speculation.
No other nation subjects itself to such an exhausting ordeal. Elections in Canada, the UK, and Australia all last about six weeks. In Japan, they get it done in 12 days.
Admittedly, these are parliamentary systems where elections are triggered by political events, but France gives candidates just six months to qualify for the second-tier ballot, then two weeks to campaign in the finals.
American campaigns weren’t always ultramarathons. Warren Harding, for example, announced his candidacy 321 days before the 1920 election. Most American presidential candidates operated under a similar timeline.
The “modern” era began with the contentious 1968 Democrat convention when the party rank-and-file wrested control from the smoke-filled rooms, and the popular primary system was established. In 1976, the obscure Jimmy Carter was able to build momentum in the primaries by campaigning early. Ambitious politicians ever since have taken note.
But super-long campaigns have consequences, most of them undesirable. The most obvious is that length favors deep pockets, the ability to finance a years-long, money draining effort.
Few candidates can self-fund. Instead, they have to spend immense amounts of time and do a lot of promising to raise the many millions required for the campaign. Many political leaders are distracted from their duties by the minutiae of campaigning.
Never-ending campaigns simultaneously exhaust and entrance voters. Competitions are naturally interesting and easy to understand. It’s simple and inexpensive for the media to churn out horse-race stories, so NATO, supply chains, and housing policy get short shrift while mountains of articles are written about the prospects of the candidates far in the future.
It has long been a truism that more challenging, risky issues are harder to tackle in an election year. But if every year is effectively an election year, then it’s never the right time for heavy lifting.
Instead, governing in the midst of a campaign creates constant pressure to “do something,” so that politicians appear active and effective. Populist policies and handouts which favor the growth of government are thought to attract voters. Moderation and fiscal restraint don’t sell well, so they are kicked to the curb.
The Build Back Better bill was the perfect campaign legislation, something for everyone. No wonder Democrats are panicked over the electoral consequences of its possible failure.
But long campaign seasons also have their clear winners. Potential candidates are already dropping by Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which happen to be crucial early primary states just to, you know, see how the folks are doing.
These states fiercely protect their primary position and with good reason. Iowa particularly has successfully exploited the candidates’ need to ingratiate themselves into the long-term protection of ethanol mandates, regulations and subsidies. It’s foolish policy with no environmental or other benefit except to corn farmers and producers, another result of our long and complicated presidential elections.
Compared with other countries, the U.S. has a short presidential term and an unusually long election process. This near constant turnover lengthens the period in which we are vulnerable to foreign actors exploiting us for their benefit.
Other democracies have laws which limit elections. Exactly nobody is clamoring for longer elections in those countries. Still, politicians are unlikely to reform their own system.
In the absence of other options to rid ourselves of these expensive, dysfunctional election campaigns, maybe we should take a look.
If you have been listening to the left and their friends in the media over the last several years, you might be under the impression that conservatives in the legislature have chronically underfunded K-12 education. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, and the truly historic levels of education funding actually threatens their soak the rich tax hike (Prop 208).
The reason we know K-12 is funded at historic levels is because there is a constitutional expenditure limit. Next year, we’re on track to blast above it. By billions.
Their pivot has been to attack the expenditure limit, as opposed to acknowledging how much the state is spending. But taxpayers should be thankful for this constitutional protection. It isn’t outdated, and it isn’t holding our schools back.
The final push on Arizona’s redistricting maps is upon us. And for the most part, things are getting better. The maps are reflecting the community input that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has received over the past three months, and that’s important. After all, this process only takes place every 10 years, so whatever maps are drawn will determine your district for the next decade.
On top of that, the maps are also close to fitting the criteria that the commission must follow in the Arizona Constitution. This is good. And this is the direction the maps should be headed.
So, naturally, the Democrats are trying everything they can to game the system. And this time they are doing it through a group called the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting.
If you don’t typically pay attention to the Arizona Corporation Commission, now is a good time to start.
The role of this government agency is to set rates and policies for utilities. That sounds simple enough, right? But for over a year now, the commission has been in the process of developing a “clean energy” plan that looks to ban all fossil fuels in our state. Next week, this renewable energy mandate will be brought up for a vote again. And the consequences could be a disaster.
Green New Deal mandates would cost ratepayers over $6 billion
In July 2020, the commission quietly released its plan to impose California-style energy mandates in our state. But it wasn’t until August of this year that an independent cost analysis had been completed. And the results were eye-opening.
In order to achieve the 100% clean energy mandate by 2050, utilities would need to phase out all fossil fuels, purchase more solar and wind generation, expand lithium-ion battery storage, and convert natural gas generation to green hydrogen. The cost for all this would be over $6 billion, which comes out to an estimated $60 per month or $720 per year for the average ratepayer.
Remember when the green energy lobby said that these mandates would actually save you money? It turns out that was just another lie. But the cost isn’t the only issue.
Teachers’ unions appear to have run into a buzz saw. On October 25, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten tweeted enthusiastic support for a Washington Post article titled “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.”
By November 6, her message had drastically changed. “Parents have to be involved in their kids’ education. They must have a voice. At the same time, we have to teach kids how to—not what to—think.” Sure, Randi.
In the interval, there had been a reality shock: the Virginia governor’s election, this time with an electorate that had wised up. Parents had been appalled when they remotely observed the overtly racist curriculum their children were being taught and then shocked at the blowback, including being charged with “white supremacy,” when they protested.
Moreover, they now realized the unions were responsible for the damaging school COVID shutdowns. Weingarten herself pressured legislatures and school districts into closures. Unions influenced the Biden CDC into adding new and impossible conditions for reopening. They threatened outright strikes if school districts tried to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.
Voters were not amused. When Terry McAuliffe vowed, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” the damage was done. Polls showed challenger Glenn Youngkin gaining 15-17 points among parents in the last weeks of the campaign. Education-oriented voters swung from favoring McAuliffe by 33 points to a nine-point Youngkin advantage.
Weingarten’s response was that the reports had all been a massive misunderstanding, that it was actually the teachers’ unions that had tried to reopen the schools. Her pathetic gaslighting attempts were ignored.
The longtime symbiotic relationship between the teachers’ unions and the Democrats may be fraying. They both earn the other’s loyalty. According to OpenSecrets, 99.72% of the AFT contributions in 2020 went to Democrats. Fully 97% of AFT donations have gone to Democrats since 1990.
In Virginia, McAuliffe bagged $1 million from the unions. AFT ran ads for McAuliffe, and Weingarten personally stumped for him.
Their money isn’t wasted. As governor, McAuliffe had vetoed nine school choice bills. This year, he affirmed on CNN, “I will never allow [school choice] as governor.” Nationwide, Democrats have been able to stymie the movement for universal school choice in spite of growing majorities in favor.
The Democrats are in a sticky situation now. According to RealClearOpinion research, voters’ support for school choice surged from 64% to 74% in just the last year. Another poll showed 78% approve of Education Savings Accounts, the most comprehensive method for funding parental choice directly.
Voters have expressed particular contempt for politicians (and educators) who send their own children to private schools but deny the same privilege to less fortunate children. 62% of voters said they would be less likely to vote for such a hypocrite.
Terry McAuliffe, for one, got the message. The veto king sent his five children to private schools. When asked about it on NBC this year, his verbatim quote was “Chuck, we have a great school system in Virginia. Dorothy and I have raised our five children.” You’ve gotta love it.
Democrats are stuck with a policy that is not only morally and educationally wrong but is a political loser. Advocates for children and parents should seize the opportunity to not only win some elections but to fundamentally reform the structure of education in America into a system that serves students and parents, not bureaucracies.
Teachers’ unions must be publicly held accountable. These organizations which relentlessly pound a “for the children” theme have a wretched record of not promoting their educational interests.
In the 1960s, when the unions first rose to influence, about $3,000 (inflation-adjusted) dollars were spent per student. Today, that number is over $13,000. Yet academic achievement and the ethnic gap have stubbornly failed to improve.
Not all of the spending increase has gone to teacher salaries, and not all of the fault for academic failure is theirs. But as the dominant influence in education policy for the last half-century, unions must bear major responsibility for the dismal outcomes.
Parents’ rights advocates: take heart. This is our time.