COLORADO SPRINGS — School board elections are getting more attention across the country.
Typically, races are low profile and low costs but hot-button issues such as the presidential election, mask-wearing, and Critical Race Theory are pushing more interest.
"I first started seeing it with the websites that the candidates created for themselves. In big bold letters on the top, it would say conservative or Christian and I was super confused because I was reading Ballotpedia where it would say non-partisan. I had a really hard time connecting the two because how can you say you are non-partisan but advertising as the conservative and Christian option for District 20," said Bernadette Guthrie, Academy School District 20 parent.
"The lack of experience across the field is kind of frightening. They are single-issue candidates, the only platforms that they have are masks and Critical Race Theory. There is so much more, so many more mundane details that go into administrating a school district the size of D20. I don't know what would happen if some of those candidates were to get seated," said Rob Rogers, Academy School District 20.
With so many candidates focused on topics related to the pandemic and Critical Race Theory, the group of Academy School District parents created a political committee. Big Fashion focuses on supporting candidates and issues that align with the group’s core values of logic, reason, compassion, and citizen engagement.
"It's really a grassroots campaign of hundreds of parents in the district that want change but we don't have the dark money, big money, and funding that some of these candidates have. We wanted to say that we are going to do this grassroots, we are going to do this from the ground up with the community's help for parents who are very passionate about our district," said Lara Matisek, Academy School District 20 parent.
UCCS Political Science Professor Josh Dunn says those hot-button issues have really pushed parents to get more involved.
"I think that is why you're seeing it not only locally, but nationally. There is a lot of attention and heightened feelings about what's going on. It is all over the country, and we aren't an arbitration," said Dunn. "This seems to happen every few years in Colorado. I think what is different about this year is that it's statewide now, a lot more interest across the state," said Dunn.
He says it seems parents are turning to school board races as a way to avoid certain ideologies.
"It turns out school boards have enormous authority. They have enormous authority to dictate curriculum, and quite literally school boards have the authority to give teachers a script and say you're going to read this and never deviate. They don't do that most of the time, they don't exercise that authority, because if you look at school boards you have people who have other jobs and don't have time to monitor what is going on in the school district," said Dunn.
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman says there seems to be an increase in candidates this year.
"Especially in District 20, there is a total of ten. It is a very competitive and perhaps heated contest, but that is what makes democracy fun," said Broerman.
The increase prompted them to host a special meeting for them.
"We are going to do a general discussion on elections, the election process, and layers of security that we have built in to certify to our citizens and candidates that we are taking the time and care to tabulate their votes correctly," said Broerman.