In two years, Moms for Liberty, a nonpartisan organization focused on increasing parental rights, has gone from no more than an idea to a political force that has helped to elect 365 school board members across the country.
In the election on Nov. 7, 50 candidates endorsed by the group won school board offices nationwide, co-founder Tiffany Justice told The Epoch Times. That's after winning 40 seats earlier in the year. That represents a 44 percent win rate in 2023, she said.
By "parental rights," Ms. Justice means that parents, not teachers, should control the education of their children. The idea is that public schools shouldn't teach children political ideologies, make them follow pandemic restrictions that damage mental health, or secretly let children identify as the opposite sex without parental permission.
Of the candidates whom the group endorsed, 83 percent were running for political office for the first time. For even a few political newcomers to win bucks the trend, Ms. Justice said.
Incumbent politicians have a 93 percent win rate, according to Ballotpedia, a nonpartisan, digital encyclopedia of U.S. election politics.
For a new political group, Moms for Liberty has impressive momentum, according to political scientist Susan A. MacManus.
"It's rare that we see an organization that started very local in Florida spring to national attention and membership," she said. "Forty percent is better than some of the other groups are doing."
Ms. Justice said that a reporter remarked to her that the election outcome was a "complete failure."
The Timing of Election CyclesIndeed, in 2022, half of the candidates endorsed by Moms for Liberty won, giving the group a higher win rate during that election cycle.
Ms. Justice said she believes her group's picks did better in 2022 because it was an election cycle with greater voter turnout. Many states were picking governors and congressional representatives.
This November's election was considered an "off-year" election. Off-year elections historically have had comparatively low turnout.
Studies show that small organized groups with a vested interest tend to win outsized influence in off-year elections, according to a report by the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).
"Officials elected with higher turnouts are more likely to reflect the views of their community because the majority of the community supports and selects them," the AFPI report asserts.
Moving school board elections to the regular election cycle could save money, increase voter representation, increase accountability, and weaken the influence of special interest groups, according to the AFPI.
Moms for Liberty sees this year's 44 percent win rate as a resounding victory.
Although incumbent candidates have high win rates, it can be extremely difficult for political first-timers to get into office, Ms. MacManus said. That's what makes the wins by candidates backed by Moms for Liberty so impressive, she said.
Battling Teachers' UnionsIn 2021, Ms. Justice and fellow mom Tina Descovich founded Moms for Liberty. Since then, the group has grown to more than 130,000 members, organized into 300 chapters in 48 states.
And their membership numbers make them strong political opponents.
The National Education Association (NEA) has more than 3 million members, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has more than 1.7 million members, according to their websites.
On its website, the NEA professes an aim to create "a great public school for every student." The AFT's goals, listed on its website, are to create "fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, health care and public services for our students, their families, and our communities."
But in recent years, some parents nationwide have taken issue with other apparent aims of the teachers' unions.
One issue causing friction between parents and teachers' unions centers on whether schools should present sexual information or information about gender identity.
Both the NEA and the AFT have launched LGBT activism on school campuses, which has raised the ire of many parents, prompting them to fight against the unions.
The Epoch Times contacted the NEA and AFT but received no comment by publication time.
To win against the unions at the ballot box, Moms for Liberty must be "relentless" about focusing on efficient grassroots organizing, Ms. Justice said.
A Controversial GroupMoms for Liberty's published mission is "fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating, and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government."
Yet some call it a "hate group."
The SPLC warned that the Moms for Liberty "social media accounts and real-world activity of the national organization and its chapters reflect views and actions that are anti-government and conspiracy propagandist, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-gender identity, and anti-inclusive curriculum."
"They also use their multiple social media platforms to target teachers and school officials, advocate for the abolition of the Department of Education, advance a conspiracy propaganda, and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community," the SPLC website states.
That puts Moms for Liberty in the same SPLC category of "General Anti-government." Also in that category is a group accused of engaging in fraud and sometimes committing bank robbery and murder.
Seeing Moms for Liberty classified as politically "far right" came as a surprise to Tia Bess, a member of the group in Middleburg, Florida.
"I am a black woman," she told The Epoch Times. "I'm in a two-mom household. So we're in the LGBT community. But yet, we're still being called a hate group."
Ms. Bess said that until a few years ago, she was politically liberal.
"It was actually the shutdown and COVID-19 that caused me to think a lot more about what's going on politically, what's going on in our school boards, and what's going on in our world," she said.
In her experience, Ms. Bess said, Moms for Liberty is all about speaking for parents who feel unheard by the school system.
"Our job as an organization," she said, "is to empower and educate parents about their parental rights."