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School board elections taking center stage as hot-button political issues divide parents

Races could be impacted by issues like critical race theory and book banning.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — It used to be that school board races didn't have big turnouts.

"School board elections usually don't turn out in the double digits," KHOU political expert Bob Stein said.

But now, he said that has changed.

“We’re beginning to see people show up in school board races that hadn’t shown up before,” Stein said.

The pandemic, along with issues like critical race theory and book banning, has turned educational issues political.

“After COVID, that parents had (felt like they) lost control over their children’s education," Stein said.

The issues could be playing a major role in how people vote and get to the polls.

“Usually, we see parents of children, empty nesters and of course teachers and administrators and maybe other stakeholders in the public schools ... now we’re seeing partisans -- Democrats, more likely Republicans, showing up because they see an issue here that isn’t just related to education," Stein said.

Unofficial results in the Position 3 Trustee race in Fort Bend Independent School District have incumbent Jim Rice losing to Rick Garcia. Stein said that might reflect voters taking a side on a particular issue.

“In Fort Bend, I think the better way to put it was that Mr. Rice might not have been sufficiently strong on his anti-critical race theory," Stein said.

And he said those issues aren’t unique to a district, the Houston area or even Texas.

“I expect it will be a major issue coming in the fall as we go into our general elections, federal elections," Stein said.

The polarizing issues are potentially extending beyond the classroom.

“This is, I guess, the weaponization of education," Stein said.

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