The National School Boards Association is quickly learning that demonizing parents who are concerned about their children’s education, and even likening some to domestic terrorists, is not a winning strategy.
In fact, the decision has triggered a "critical loss" of financial backing for the organization.
What is the background?
The Justice Department sent shock waves throughout the U.S. in October when Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he had dispatched the FBI to respond to a number of concerns lodged by the NSBA.
In September, the NSBA wrote President Joe Biden requesting federal intervention over heated confrontations between parents and school boards. The NSBA claimed school board members had been subjected to threats, intimidation, and, in some cases, actual violence.
Not only did the NSBA request intervention from federal law enforcement agencies, the organization urged the federal government to characterize sharp reaction against school boards as "domestic terrorism" and "hate crimes."
The NSBA later apologized. The mea culpa, however, did not stop more than one dozen state education boards from withdrawing support from the NSBA.
What is happening now?
Axios reported that at least 17 states have withdrawn support for the NSBA, cutting off the organization from a significant reservoir of funding.
In fact, financial documents obtained by Axios showed that those states accounted for more than $1 million in annual dues in 2019, or more than 40% of all annual dues received by the NSBA that year.
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The group gets more dues income directly from school districts, with more than 1,200 providing nearly $5.3 million this year, according to NSBA records. Like the state associations, some of those districts also have severed ties with the group this fall.
The $1.1 million figure likely undercounts state associations' financial support, which also includes contributions related to NSBA conferences and events. The Montana School Boards Association, for instance, initially budgeted for $68,000 in 2021-22 dues payments. But it estimated its total financial commitment to be much higher, at nearly $160,000. It voted last month to leave the NSBA.
What did the NSBA say?
A spokesman for the organization downplayed the financial headache caused by the states withdrawing their membership from the NSBA.
"NSBA continues to have the resources we need to be effective on behalf of our members, and we will relentlessly work to advance our mission and continuously improve as an organization," the spokesperson told Axios.