By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Packaged races in District 40 election

Conservatives should be commended for their transparency in seeking more ideological control of McMinnville School District with three high-visibility campaigns running in absolute lockstep.

Governance in America is all about consortiums of like-minded people finding candidates who share their preferred ideology for government regulations and laws. Often, that involves efforts to change political, social or cultural trends based on personal philosophy.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked parental frustrations with schools and heated up school board elections. “As those issues fade,” wrote Collin Binkley and Julie Carr Smyth for the Associated Press, “right-leaning groups are spending millions on candidates who promise to scale back teachings on race and sexuality, remove offending books from libraries. and nix plans for gender-neutral bathrooms or transgender-inclusive sports teams.”

Alex Baumhardt wrote in the Oregon Capital Chronicle about Republican candidates who “are platforming nationwide calls for ‘parents’ rights’ and school choice. They want curriculum posted online and for parents to be able to opt out of certain lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

We have watched the fight for school board control unfold in Newberg, elsewhere in Oregon and across the country. This year, three McMinnville School Board candidates share a campaign treasurer with the newly-created Town and Country PAC; have near-identical website platforms that highlight parent rights and involvement; and received matching PAC contributions for large look-alike signs on surrounding prime farmland sites that recently have been reserved for partisan political candidates.

The PAC itself has reported $2,000 in contributions and $4,200 in expenditures, but significant financial updates are likely before the May 16 special election.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Senate this week approved a bill requiring that school district websites link to lists of state-approved textbooks and other instructional materials, and to descriptions of “academic content standards for courses of study offered by the school district.”

There actually is a nationwide trend toward partisan school board elections, now held in about 10 percent of school districts. It will be interesting to see results of research seeking to determine if party-identified school boards have more or less ideology gaps among members than nonpartisan boards.

There is a strong partisan whiff in the air, and people are gravitating toward local opportunities to legislate values they believe are wrongfully missing in government. Rapid growth of liberal-leaning policies has added to a national clash of rural and urban values.

None of this, including three packaged local school board campaigns, should come as any surprise.

News-Register Publisher Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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