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Leaning In: The New Power of Parents in Public Education

A new generation of far more activist parent organizations is springing up across the country, propelled by the internet, the rise of video conferencing, social media, and millions of dollars in backing from foundations seeking to bring the voices of underrepresented families and communities into the work of school improvement. More interested in school district budgets and ballot boxes than bake sales, they’re pushing policymakers and local education leaders for better schools, greater transparency, resource equity, teacher diversity, more school options, and other remedies.

The pandemic has intensified this new parent activism by turning kitchen tables into classrooms, stoking parents’ frustrations with school closings and online learning. And it has spawned new conservative parent organizations opposed to mask mandates, vaccines, and district attempts to confront issues of race, gender and sexuality in schools—agendas that at times put them in direct opposition to parents pursuing educational equity, and agendas that have turned more than a few school board meetings into civic punch-ups. This report examines the rise of the new generation of parent organizations in public education, the people behind the movement, and its consequences for education policy and policymakers.

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