Tuesday, December 6

Political groups target Texas school board races

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — After a bruising campaign season in the Dripping Springs Independent School District, district parent Cortney Schwalbe wanted to do something nice ahead of election day on Saturday.

She wanted to get all four school board candidates together for a photo in front of a polling place.

“It has been somewhat of a tough campaign,” Schwalbe told KXAN. “So let’s finish strong, and be kind to one another and get out the vote.”

Last-second location and scheduling conflicts kept the Friday morning photo-op from happening, but Schwalbe said she was encouraged the candidates were all at least open to the idea.

“We’re all tired of all the politics, I think,” she said.

It’s no secret that what are supposed to be non-partisan school board races have become increasingly contentious in Texas, particularly on social media.

KXAN has chronicled how partisan politics over masking, library books and teachings on race have infiltrated school board meetings across Central Texas.

“Conservatives are really on the offensive on the issue,” said Joshua Blank with the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project.

Blank said, so far, Texas progressives have found themselves on the losing end of the education culture wars as national conservative groups and PACs increasingly pump money into school board races.

The Republican Party of Texas also announced late last year it was forming a Local Government Committee to “double down” on local elections.

“I couldn’t agree more; we are playing catch-up,” said Lana Hansen, executive director of Texas Blue Action, an Austin-based Democratic group.

Texas Blue Action has deployed volunteers to canvass neighborhoods in the Eanes Independent School District, Hays Consolidated Independent School District and in Dripping Springs.

“What we needed to do was get this election on the radar of voters and make sure that they were showing up,” Hansen told KXAN.

Blank said it’s a common dynamic.

“We have to remind people that all politics is local, but that’s because most of what happens to people is local,” Blank said.

“These races for local officials in the education system and city councils really impact voters in a much more direct way,” he added.

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