New parent group aims to get conservatives elected to MN school boards

·3 min read

Disappointed by the performance of conservative candidates in last year’s Westonka school board election, a Mound woman has launched a campaign to boost like-minded school candidates throughout the state.

Cristine Trooien, 41, formed the Minnesota Parents Alliance in order to push back against K-12 initiatives that promote racial equity and support for LGBTQ students.

Student achievement fell dramatically during extended school closures early in the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, public schools are “obsessed” with equity initiatives, Trooien said, instead of “getting our children back on track academically.”

The move comes amid growing distrust in America’s public schools. Some parents, especially white conservatives, increasingly are anxious about what their children are being taught about race, gender, sex and U.S. history, and they worry that equity initiatives are creating low expectations for behavior and academic achievement.

Trooien wants those parents to get involved by participating in school board meetings and running in elections that are heavily influenced by endorsements from teachers unions and other labor groups.

POLITICAL NONPROFIT

The alliance is a 501(c)(4), a type of nonprofit that can endorse political candidates but whose donations are not tax-deductible. It has identified over 100 current candidates who align with its mission, which is to “prioritize academic achievement, equality and parental rights” in schools.

Several of those candidates are on primary ballots on Tuesday, including in the Rochester, St. Cloud and Alexandria school districts.

“Parents aren’t the problem; parents are the solution,” Trooien told over 100 people attending her rally Thursday morning at the state Capitol. “If we’re going to fix our schools, guys, that starts with us.”

Anoka-Hennepin school board member Matt Audette was among the few conservative winners in the metro last year, raising over $27,000 and beating his opponent 2-to-1.

“It matters when parents get involved. We can do it,” he told the crowd Thursday.

The rally featured a dozen current candidates backed by the alliance. They spoke of teachers “indoctrinating” students with “divisive” curricula, lax discipline enforcement and school boards shutting down public comment.

GRASSROOTS

Trooien said she has no financial support from other organizations, and she’s only begun to make fundraising appeals. Although she operated a modest political action committee in her own district last year, she has no plans for the alliance to give money to candidates.

Instead, she’s been training school board candidates and plans to offer onboarding to anyone who wins a seat. She’s also connecting candidates to resources such as the Center for the American Experiment, a conservative think tank that campaigns against a range of liberal education efforts they place under the umbrella of “critical race theory.”

Trooien said her group has been connecting parents throughout the state who are upset about the state of their public schools. Those parents are learning, she said, that the same “misguided equity policies” are being implemented all over.

While Trooien supports school choice, she said the alliance is focused on improving the public schools, not promoting alternatives.

Trooien’s twins, now 7, were in preschool when the pandemic began. In the months that followed, as she learned about efforts like Westonka’s “cultural competency plan,” she and her husband decided to homeschool rather than start their children in the public school district.

“If I don’t feel good about sending my kids to school — a public school district which we love and feel like most people move there for — something’s the matter,” she said. “I feel like I took my kids out of a burning building, but there are still kids trapped inside, so we’re going to keep trying to fight the fire.”

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