Commentary: In Williamson County, a public education PAC takes shape
Franklin High School. Battles between parents and school boards have been heated in Williamson County. (Photo: Williamson County Schools)
In late 2014, a good friend texted me with something along the lines of, “Are you watching this School Board nonsense?” I think my response was, “Who watches the School Board?”
My oldest daughter was in 1st grade, and I was about as clueless as they come about anything beyond her immediate classrooms when it came to the school system in general. But I tuned in to the ongoing drama, mostly because this friend pointed me to Williamson Strong, a Facebook page started by some Williamson County School moms who were trying to wake the rest of us up to the Tea Party takeover that had just occurred on the Board in the August 2014 election. The politicization of our public schools was making headlines day after day, and parents like me were brought into the loop and rightly outraged about the extremists’ involvement in our children’s and their teachers’ lives.
Little did I know that less than a year later, I’d actually be sitting on the Williamson County School Board when I successfully campaigned for the appointment to a vacated seat when one of those Tea Partiers resigned. I was challenged in the 2016 election to keep the seat for the remainder of the term and won. It was an eye opening, challenging, gratifying and life changing experience in so many ways. My respect for educators and the people who dedicate their lives to our children will forever be beyond measure because of the things I witnessed and learned.
Many of those extremists elected to the Board in 2014 resigned. A few remain today but have, for the most part, been doing the right thing for our students in the years since they lost their majority influence. Lately though, things have changed, with some sort of invisible switch being flipped after the November 2020 election. It’s stirred the highly politicized agents in our community to revive their attacks on our public schools.
In 2014, the election rallying cry was Common Core. The slate of Tea Party candidates campaigned together at times, with nearly identical glossy mailers decrying Obama and the indoctrination of our students through curriculum. The fear tactics were, back then, about Islamic indoctrination through Social Studies textbooks. Now, in 2021, the nearly identical playbook is being deployed except with “Critical Race Theory” subbing in for Common Core and reading curriculum being the indoctrination vehicle for the brainwashing of our students. National conservative groups have formed local chapters here in Williamson County, with foot soldiers spending countless hours drowning our school district in paperwork and meeting requests, distracting them once again from the already difficult work of educating our children.
Williamson Strong was wrongfully accused of being a Political Action Committee in 2015, and spent years defending that charge and winning judgment just last year. It was a group of parents who shed light on extremist political actions, and the people involved didn’t like that very much and went after them to try and shut the group down to no avail. The Williamson Strong parents were dedicated to protecting our public schools and should be given a lot of credit for restoring normalcy and functionality back to the Williamson County School Board by activating parents to use their own influence on the board and at the polls.
As their children have already or are about to age out of the school system, they’ve passed the baton on to two of us who stepped forward to continue their passion project. Crystal Freemon and I are moms of WCS students, doing this in our free time because we lived through this last time and believe we can help prevent a 2022 School Board disaster from occurring. Social media postings won’t be enough this time around. And so this month we filed to make Williamson Strong an official PAC, allowing us to fundraise, vet, and endorse candidates who aren’t vying for a School Board seat for partisan political gain or influence.
Williamson County parents are smart, passionate, engaged, and fiercely protective of their children’s public education. It’s why many of us choose to live here. We believe our PAC will be a trusted partner for these parents as all of our interests are identical: to protect our students, their teachers and administrators, and our community from the upheaval we lived through in 2014. We owe it to these educators to be their defensive frontline, and we know every single public school parent will do anything in their power to show up and be a part of that, whether it’s donating to our PAC or just showing up to the polls next August. We believe in public schools. We’re all Williamson Strong.
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