The Katy ISD school board race has taken a sharp political turn as some candidates vying for the nonpartisan position accepted Republican party endorsements and appeared on flyers that attacked their opponents as “far left” supporters of “radical ideologies.”
The position of school board of trustees is non-partisan in Texas, but three candidates have accepted endorsements from the Harris County GOP and never publicly objected when mailers were sent likening their opponents to Democrat politicians President Joe Biden and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Amy Theime, Morgan Calhoun and Mary Ellen Cuzela, candidates for Positions 3, 4 and 5 respectively accepted endorsement from the Harris County GOP. The organization on April 21 sent out a mass text message urging voters to “fight back against the radical left’s woke agenda that’s seeping into our schools.
It’s the latest escalation in a new partisan tone sweeping school board races across the country, which have become the latest battleground as coordinated blocs of candidates from both sides fight for control of local schools. The two sides have clashed over COVID precautions and what conservative say is a concern about “Critical Race Theory,” an academic concept taught in some colleges that asserts that racism is embedded in the nation’s criminal justice system.
In the last week, Katy residents have been inundated with mailers accusing the candidates’ opponents, Bruce Bradford, Cicely Taylor and Shana Peterson of being radical liberal ideologists. In the May 6 election, nine candidates are vying for three Katy ISD school board seats.
As the flyers hit mailboxes, Peterson said that she’s actually a conservative, but that she refuses to bring her personal politics into the school board.
“I’ve voted Republican in every election, but this isn’t about me,” Peterson said. “Politics have no place in school boards.”
The flyers were paid for by Texans for Educational Freedom. While the organization didn’t respond to requests for comments, according to its website, the group exists to “keep liberal politics out of the classroom.”
Dax Gonzalez, director of government relations for the Texas Association of School Boards, said school boards are supposed to be apolitical because they’re intended to serve all students from all backgrounds. TASB is a nonprofit educational association that serves and represents Texas school boards and supports local public schools.
“The reason that school boards are nonpartisan is because education is a nonpartisan issue,” Gonzalez said. “When (board members) get into that boardroom, they set aside the things that make them different, and they work towards educating all kids to make sure that they all have successful outcomes.”
I just had a post about local and school board candidates in the May elections that have been endorsed by the Texas Democratic Party, so I’m not going to criticize the Harris County GOP for endorsing candidates in these races. I am going to criticize them for endorsing a bunch of book-banning wackos, who have no business being anywhere near a school, let alone a position on a school board. The Book-Loving Texan’s Guide to the May 2023 School Board Elections, which I blogged about here, has a guide to the Katy ISD elections, and it has plenty to say about these three candidates, as well as the shameful recent history of hysteria and moral panic in that district.
If you live in Katy or know someone who does, please make sure you or they don’t vote for Theime, Calhoun, or Cuzela. The BLTG highlights Cicely Taylor (one of two candidates running against Calhoun) and Shana Peterson (opposing Cuzela) as the best options. There are two other candidates in the third race, against Thieme, and the BLTG doesn’t offer an opinion on either of them, so make your own decision. Whatever the case, Thieme is clearly the worst of the three. Please go and vote accordingly.
(For the record, the TDP did not endorse any of the candidates in the Katy ISD races.)