By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Bright lights shine on school elections

McMinnville School Board elections are in a bright community spotlight this month.

Three women — Audrey Aase, Shellie Reyes and Anita Humlie — have local families, friends and supporters with shared ideas about improving public education. Their campaigns are financially sustained by a new, socially conservative political action committee and the Yamhill County Republican Party.

The campaigns have cookie-cutter but polished websites and roadway signs; the candidates have not been forthcoming about apparent connections to a national war over control of public school curricula.

On the other hand, some of their detractors have organized under an unsettling cloak of anonymity that belies the image of personal commitment to their cause.

One common theme in the campaigns is a promise to elevate the power of parents: “I will listen to the voices of parents. I believe parents should be aware of and have a say in what is being taught in our schools” … “I will ensure you have the time and respect you need to voice your concerns” … “I believe that parents are the authority when it comes to deciding what is best for their children.”

Nationally, cultural battles are being waged on the pages of reading-list books and classroom lesson plans. Social conservatives, believing today’s liberal education is poisoning the minds of America’s children, pour passionate words and phrases onto the fire: sexuality education, gender identification and critical race theory, to name a few.

In nearby Newberg, social conservatives took control of the School Board. Meanwhile, in recent years, people with more liberal ideas of education have been tone deaf to cultural undercurrents that produced a U.S. president in the mold of Donald Trump, who now promises to “bring back parental rights into our schools.”

There’s nothing wrong with people organizing in support of, or opposition to, matters of public policy. There is, however, cause to take pause when partisan political movements launch candidate slates seeking to control public education from a single point of view.

We don’t know if these three local candidates were recruited and schooled, or just coincidentally adopted and organized, by the social conservative machine. We don’t know, but doubt, if McMinnville School District curricula and practices are sufficiently objectionable to warrant a conservative takeover.

We only know that in a half century of local school board elections, we’ve never seen the kind of coordinated campaigning on display in 2023, and that makes this election a particularly newsworthy event.

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


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