A progressive campaign group is getting in on school board battles, with a goal of an eight-figure war chest for the hyper-local races.
Run For Something, a progressive group focused on supporting candidates in down-ballot races, says it’s planning a $10 million investment in left-leaning school and library board candidates in 2024 and 2025. The Wednesday announcement comes amid intensifying battles for school and library boards, with conservative campaigns moving to slash funding and restrict education on topics like race and gender. Some right-wing groups, like Moms for Liberty, have already led school board campaigns, and signaled plans to increase their electoral efforts.
Amanda Litman, cofounder of Run For Something, said her organization launched the project after identifying “a real hole in the ecosystem on the left, particularly around school and library board races in the electoral space.”
“There are a lot of organizations that do legal fights,” Litman told The Daily Beast, referencing organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed recent lawsuits against censorship in schools. “There are some organizations that show up at school and library board meetings to protest or speak up. There are some that train volunteers. There is no one actually asking people to run for school board and then helping them do that.”
Run For Something is planning a $3 million pilot program for school and library board races in 2024, with the goal of scaling up to $7 million in 2025, and continuing the effort over the next five years. School board races will be the program’s primary focus.
Litman said her organization is currently seeking funding for the campaign but “we feel pretty confident” in securing funding. Run For Something’s 2023 budget is approximately $16 million, she said.
Her group is not the only organization setting its sights on school board races. The conservative “1776 Project PAC” launched in 2021 after its founder objected to the way he perceived schools to be teaching about race.
The 1776 Project PAC poured approximately $3 million into school board races between its 2021 launch and the November 2022 elections, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. The group told the Journal that it had supported approximately 100 candidates who won school board seats.
Moms for Liberty, which has spearheaded opposition to discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in schools, told the Journal that it had endorsed 270 candidates in November 2022 races. Approximately half of those candidates won, Moms for Liberty told the Journal.
Conservative candidates fared worse in April school board elections, with most candidates backed by Moms for Liberty or 1776 Project PAC losing their closely watched races in Wisconsin and Illinois. The lackluster performance prompted some Republican activists to warn that voters were losing their appetites for candidates who campaign on restricting discussion of race and gender in schools.
But at its summit event this summer, Moms for Liberty signaled plans to go all-in on elections. The group plans to “start endorsing at the state board level and elected superintendents,” its co-founder said.
Run For Something and other liberal groups have also previously endorsed school board candidates. The liberal group Campaign for Our Shared Future Action Fund endorsed 38 school board candidates in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan in the 2022 election cycle, spending an estimated $100,000 on the campaigns, EducationWeek reported last year.
But Litman said her group is planning a more end-to-end process of training, vetting, and campaigning for school board candidates.
“We did a series of trainings earlier this year in Pennsylvania as part of the prep for this pilot program,” Litman said. “We did three events and had about 150 people come out to talk about running for school board. Half of them ended up filing to run. That’s an incredible conversion rate.”