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After months of gathering information to contact school board members across the state, the Alabama Policy Institute (API) has released an online survey asking their opinions on issues such as CRT, SEL, school choice, equity and demographics.

Emma Gibney, API’s Policy Communications Manager, said the purpose of the survey is to allow parents in the state’s 138 school districts to learn more about their board members and their stance on issues facing school systems, teachers, parents and students.

“We want to tell the public what’s going on in their districts,” said Gibney. “Parents should be aware of what their school board members believe.”

According to Parents Defending Education, although school board members make up the largest body of elected officials in the nation, school board elections see some of the lowest voter turnouts. In Alabama, county BOE positions are elected, but most city school system board positions are appointed by the city or town council.

“Whether board members are elected by their district or appointed by their city council, families have a right to know how local school systems are run,” said Gibney.

The project for API began as an initiative involving former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Noah Webster Education Foundation (NWEF) out of Virginia. The NWEF’s mission is to “educate and collaborate with individuals and organizations to tell the story of America’s education and culture, identify foundational principles that improve them, and advance practice and policy to change them.” The purpose of the project initially was to monitor for “woke indoctrination” in schools, Gibney said. API’s position in the project is simply to gather opinions and present that information to the public.

“It’s important for [the parents] to know so they can vote for people in their districts who are like-minded,” Gibney said. “But it’s really on our end just trying to make an educational piece to inform parents. It’s like, ‘if you like it, hey, that’s great, but if not, now you can do something about it.'”

It took two months for API to collect contact information for each of the approximately 800 school board members in the state. Some school systems still have not provided information for API to send surveys to board members.

However, most school systems did allow API to email board members. 

“These kids don’t belong to the government, they belong to their parents and there should be transparency there,” said Gibney.

Of the few responses API has received from board members, Gibney said many of the results were unexpected.

“Based on these initial responses, it looks like the people who are most zealous to respond have the most extreme positions,” Gibney said. “Maybe that’s just the initial responses. We have to wait and see.”

Some of the questions on the survey are:

  • Do you have any children/grandchildren in the school district?

  • Are you in favor of the concept of whole child education (social-emotional learning)? 

  • Do you believe parents or schools should primarily guide students in matters of faith, values, and sexuality?

  • Should teachers and students be required to state their pronouns?

API plans to gather the information and will release responses by school districts. Names of those who take the survey will remain anonymous.

If any school board member did not receive the email and would like to take part in the survey, they can email communications@alabamapolicy.org for a link.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

1819 News is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Alabama Policy Institute, which has been one of the strongest voices in the state, promoting and preserving Alabama values for 33 years. Oversight for 1819 News is provided by a separate not-for-profit board of directors.

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