Opinion: I'm working to ensure our education system puts kids ahead of politics

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A mother and leading education advocate explains what work is being done in support of educators and parents of children returning to polarized and politicized schools.

These days, we are seeing radical politicians manufacture so-called "culture wars" in our public schools to score political points. This divisive approach has led to school officials facing threats of violence and acts of intimidation and school board meetings getting filled with shouting matches and public rants.

I grew up watching my mom serve on the school board. Believe it or not, those school board meetings were boring. No one yelled, no one threatened violence, no one talked about lawsuits or recall elections. Parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members met and discussed what was best for our kids.

Now, as a mother, a lifelong educator, and executive director of the Campaign for Our Shared Future (COSF), I know schools should not only be a place where kids have access to a high-quality education and learn the skills needed to help them succeed in life, but a place where parents and teachers—not politicians—work together to get that done.

We’re at the point in summer that most families are getting ready to go back to school, and it's really important to make sure that the needs of children are prioritized. However, parents like me are concerned about what is happening in schools. Politicians’ extremist agendas are destroying the fabric of what’s most important in school by corrupting the essential collaboration between parents and teachers.

I can’t stand by and watch the destruction of the vital services and supports that children need to be successful. That’s why our work at COSF is focused on promoting parental involvement in schools, keeping political games out of our public education system, and educating voters on the role school boards play in the democratic process. Right now, families and students are looking for help, resources, and ways to get involved and take action to stop the increasing political attacks on education.

That’s also why COSF has worked to provide the resources local communities and schools need as they’re preparing for the school year, while collaborating with community-based nonprofits, local and state partners, and grassroots organizations. In partnership with these groups, we provide support to the students and families on the ground who are fighting for education equity, ensuring that their voices are heard at the state capital.

We’re monitoring legislation in states and listening to hearings and testimony from the public so we can understand the impact of culture war bills and how they affect our children. We’ve also developed a voter guide that’s available on our website to empower voters to elect school board representatives who are focused on the real needs of our children.

These are just some of the ways COSF is working to improve public education for children and families, all efforts grounded in the same vision: to make sure that every child—no matter their background—has access to a high-quality, age-appropriate education.

We believe that respectful collaboration between families and teachers is the only way we can ensure the best education environments possible for our children. We believe that our kids need to learn about the full history that shaped this country—both the good and the bad—so that they can take what we’ve learned from the past and forge a better future for all of us.

Despite radical politicians meddling in our schools and using our kids as pawns in their political games, COSF is working each day to keep decisions about our schools in the hands of the families they serve — and hopefully, make school board meetings boring again.

Heather Harding is a mother, lifelong educator, and proud daughter of a school board member and teacher - she currently serves as the Executive Director of the Campaign for Our Shared Future, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization fighting for high-quality, age-appropriate, and accessible K-12 education.