A controversial letter sent to President Joe Biden, in which the National School Boards Association (NSBA) asked that some parents attending school board meetings be considered domestic terrorists, was the final straw for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).
The letter (pdf) prompted the Department of Justice to announce that the FBI and U.S. attorneys would discuss ways to address threats against school employees and board members, a task traditionally left to local law enforcement.
After what it describes as “significant deliberations,” the PSBA voted unanimously to withdraw from the National organization and sent a statement (pdf) to its Pennsylvania members Thursday, explaining the decision.
“The value of the NSBA federation membership has been questioned numerous times over the past several years both within Pennsylvania and amongst many other state school boards associations,” the statement to members says. “This misguided approach has made our work and that of many school boards more difficult. It has fomented more disputes and cast partisanship on our work on behalf of school directors, when we seek to find common ground and support all school directors in their work, no matter their politics. Now is not the time for more politics and posturing, it is the time for solutions to the many challenges facing education.”
PSBA serves 500 school districts and 4,500 elected school board directors. It said a school board meeting should be the model of democracy in action.
“Civility is the bedrock of this approach to local governance,” the statement said. “Board members, the public, and parents need to be held to a high standard of responsible participation in this process. No school board member or administrator should ever be the subject of threats or violence—it is shocking that someone would ever use violence to solve a difference of opinion over educational policies. However, attempting to solve the problems with a call for federal intervention is not the place to begin, nor a model for promoting greater civility and respect for the democratic process.”
PSBA has been unhappy with NSBA for quite a while. “It has been a struggle for the board and leadership of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to identify a reason to continue to be a part of a federation that is not focused on bipartisanship, civility, and seeking solutions to the internal problems,” the statement said.
PSBA is not alone in its displeasure with NSBA. Florida School Boards Association sent an Oct. 11 letter (pdf) to NSBA encouraging a review of NSBA’s leadership and urged a public acknowledgment of the federal overreach expressed in its letter to the president. “As you are aware, we did not submit payment for 2020–2021 dues, which were due July 1, 2021,” the Florida association wrote. “We have been clear about reassessing the value of our affiliation with NSBA due to concerns surrounding NSBA’s governance, leadership, transparency, and failure to embrace non-partisanship.”
The Montana School Boards Association issued an Oct. 5 statement (pdf) saying NSBA did not consult the Montana organization before it issued its request. “We have full trust and confidence in the civility of constituents, the sincerity and good intentions of those providing input and trusted local law enforcement to address any isolated criminal issues that may arise,” the Montana statement said.
In an Oct. 6 statement, Denotris Jackson, executive director of the Mississippi School Boards Association called the NSBA letter inflammatory. “It has created great dissension, much unproductive discussion, and a rise of distrust in public school board members and educators,” Denotris wrote. “Hearing from passionate stakeholders can be a sign of healthy community engagement. NSBA’s action is counter-productive to board efforts to engage parents and other stakeholders in the activities of the district and to our efforts to solicit stakeholder input and support.”
Parents Defending Education, an advocacy group, contacted state school board associations for comment on the NSBA’s letter to Biden. According to its website, 16 states have distanced themselves from the NSBA’s letter as of Oct. 14, including Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.
NSBA did not respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.