Local school board resignations triple in Minnesota

Published 12:49 pm Monday, October 25, 2021

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ST. PAUL — Contentious disagreements over COVID-19 policies and critical race theory have caused a significant increase in the number of local school board resignations in Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota School Boards Association, nearly 70 board members have resigned their positions this year, triple the number of resignations in a regular year.

That equates to an unusually high number of district special elections, according to the association’s executive director, Kirk Schneidawind.

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“We have a number of special elections around filling vacant seats. We’ve seen a number of school board members have resigned or moved on to special positions and as a result it’s going to require some elections,” Schneidawind said.

Violent school board meetings and threats toward school board members over divisive issues that have caused dozens of board leaders to quit their positions are now at the center of many school board campaigns and platforms, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

“People love their schools and love their kids and want it to be the best,” Schneidawind said. “Vaccines, masks, CRT, other relevant hot issues have certainly and will certainly play a part in the school board election this year. More so than we have seen.”

Critical race theory, or CRT, is a way of analyzing American history through the lens of racism. While the term has been applied broadly by some to any efforts toward inclusion, the theory itself is not a fixture of K-12 instruction.

In the Minnetonka school district, the school board race is hotly contested. There are three open board positions and eight candidates have filed to run for those seats.

And, it’s not just adults who are weighing in on the school board race. A group of high school students has taken it upon themselves to make sure their voices are heard in the debate about who leads their school as well.

Jin Bang, a 17-year-old Minnetonka High School student, helped form the group Minnetonka Coalition for Equitable Education. She’s led protests and discussions with current board members. And recently she led a forum, grilling candidates on their policy positions.

“This election has kind of been looming over our heads for so many months … because we knew how important, after having interacted with the school board, how important school board representation is and their goals,” Bang said. “In this year, where there’s finally an election and there are progressive candidates and pro-equity candidates running. We knew it was really important.”