The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) finally left the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the 23rd state to do so. The exit happened hours after news broke that the NSBA had planned to request that the Biden administration invoke the Insurrection Act to federalize Army National Guard troops and deploy them to intimidate parents trying to exercise their First Amendment right to petition redress of grievances at school board meetings.
The NSBA didn’t cite the Insurrection Act in its draft request for National Guard troops to Attorney General Merrick Garland, but that act is the only legal option for a president to take command of a state’s National Guard to restore public order.
That Texas’s NSBA affiliate would be among the last to sever ties with the organization might seem counterintuitive to a non-Texan. But Texas school boards, as in much of the nation, skew left of the general population.
TASB’s tardy exit was likely hastened by election results on May 7, when conservatives won dozens of school board races against pro-mask incumbents who denied that explicit material is in libraries, as well as the existence of lesson plans based on critical race theory. The most high-profile loss for TASB was by Jim Rice, TASB’s immediate past president and a 12-year veteran of the Fort Bend Independent School District.
Left Seeks to Stifle Dissent with Force
The latest revelation from NSBA’s efforts to bring in the federal government for school board meetings betrays a troubling and dangerous trend of the left seeking to stifle peaceful dissent with the power of government or threats of violence.
In NSBA’s case, the letter they did send to the Biden administration on Sept. 29 of last year claimed that heated public comments at school board meetings amounted to “acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials.” They also claimed this was sufficiently “heinous” as to be “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” subject to enforcement under the Patriot Act or other laws.
Less than a week later, the NSBA letter sparked an order by Attorney General Merrick Garland detailing the FBI to investigate alleged threats against school boards — diverting agents from more important work, such as stopping mass murderers.
No Parallel to Ike Calling Up Guard After Brown
Some on the left may see the call for military intervention at school board meetings as analogous to Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s invocation of the Insurrection Act in 1957 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that racially segregated schools were “inherently unequal” in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.
But the circumstances couldn’t be more different. In 1957, as nine black students enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Democratic governor there, Orval Faubus, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from attending school.
Eisenhower countered, issuing Executive Order 10730. In the justification section of the order, Eisenhower noted that “certain persons in the state of Arkansas, individually and in unlawful assemblages, combinations, and conspiracies, have willfully obstructed the enforcement of (court) orders… (and this) obstruction of justice hinders the execution of the laws of that State and of the United States, and makes it impracticable to enforce such laws by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings; and… such obstruction of justice constitutes a denial of the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution of the United States and impedes the course of justice under those laws.”
In this, Eisenhower was harkening back to the early days of Reconstruction after the Insurrection Act, passed in 1807, was amended to contend with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and more formal state and local government efforts aimed at denying the full exercise of rights to recently freed slaves. Not only did Eisenhower send in active-duty troops, he also federalized the Arkansas National Guard, removing them from Faubus’s command, since they were being used to thwart rule of law.
In an interview, Christopher Zook, president of Texans for Educational Freedom, a PAC backing conservatives in school board races in Texas, commented, “When a national organization like NSBA labeled parents as domestic terrorists, they revealed their true intent. NSBA took the first shot, and parents responded.”
Noting the electoral victories for conservative school board candidates, Zook said, “The biggest mistake any person can make is to get between a momma (and poppa) and her cubs, and that is exactly what NSBA did. These recent school board elections continue to show that parents will not stand for radical indoctrination in our classrooms.”
James Quintero, a policy director with the Texas Public Policy Foundation (where I also work), told me that, “On the ground, school boards are engaged in all sorts of bad behavior, like demanding staff vote for bonds and threatening consequences if they don’t, and spreading disinformation related to new debt and tax rates. At the legislature, special interest groups, like TASB, go all out to defeat conservative attempts to stop these practices with legislation.”
According to IRS filings, TASB brought in $78.3 million in revenue in 2020, virtually all of it from taxpayers in the form of payments from school districts. James Crow, TASB’s executive director, pulled down $1.1 million in 2019 (a legislative session year) and $448,418 in 2020. TASB had 10 employees making $250,000 or more in 2020.
By pulling out of its national affiliate, NSBA, TASB likely believes that its member boards across Texas will be less inclined to leave TASB, thus preserving millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded fee revenue. Even so, TASB’s considerable clout in the Texas legislature will take a hit in the upcoming 2023 legislative session, especially as several teachers’ union-backed Republican candidates lost their runoff elections on May 24 to more conservative challengers.
Analyzing the runoffs, Zook said, “This week’s elections go to show Texans want a more conservative legislature. People do not want radical indoctrination in our schools, and TASB has now come to the realization they lost some allies to more conservative challengers. TASB is finally coming to terms that they cannot get away with their radical policies any longer…their actions have consequences.”