Moms for Liberty Continues to Focus on School Races Nationwide; Sets up Political Clash with Teachers Unions

“Parental rights” group Moms for Liberty has sought to take over school boards in multiple states and is looking to expand those efforts across the U.S. and to other education posts in 2024 and beyond. The effort is setting up a battle with teachers’ unions and others on the left who view the group as toxic in public schools.

Co-founder of the group, Tiffany Justice, said during its yearly summit over the weekend in Philadelphia that Moms for Liberty would use its political action committee next year to engage nationwide in school board races. It will also “start endorsing at the state board level and elected superintendents.”

Justice’s comments confirm that Moms for Liberty, which spent its first two years inflaming school board meetings with complaints about the instruction on gender identity in the classroom and systemic racism, is developing a larger strategy to overhaul education infrastructure nationwide.

As the group has gained broad conservative support and donor funding, its focus on education ensures that even as voters turn their attention to the 2024 presidential race, school board elections will remain some of the most contentious political fights next year.

Moms for Liberty began with three Florida moms fighting Covid-19 restrictions in 2021. It quickly gained attention as a national player in GOP politics, helped by the board’s political training and close relationships with high-profile Republican lawmakers and groups.

The group’s support for school choice and the “functional rights of parents” to direct their children’s education has drawn supporters, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading Republican presidential contender, and the Conservative Heritage Foundation.

The group has been labeled as an “extremist” organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center for advancing anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation, allegedly harassing community members, and fighting to scrub inclusive and diverse material from lesson plans.

In an interview, Justice said she and her co-founder, Tina Descovich, were two moms who “had faith in American parents to take back the public education system in America” and “fully intend on reclaiming and reforming” the system.

So far, the group has had mixed results in getting its candidates elected. Slightly over half of the 500 school board candidates it endorsed nationwide won in 2022. In the spring of 2023, less than one-third of the almost 30 candidates it endorsed in Wisconsin were elected.

Focusing on state-level candidates could give Moms for Liberty the ability to assert influence

Focusing on state-level candidates could give Moms for Liberty an opportunity to assert its influence on some positions that have more control over determining curriculum, according to Jon Valant, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied education policy.

President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said that groups such as Moms for Liberty have “created more action and more energy” among teachers’ unions.

“We have 41 new units that we have organized as the AFT this year. We’ve never had that,” said Weingarten. She said the union would “do what we have to do” during elections to show the contrast between Moms for Liberty candidates and its endorsed candidates.

Beyond unions, Moms of Liberty will likely face opposition from voters and grassroots groups who “just don’t agree with their vision of what public education should be,” said Valant.

Martha Cooney, a Pennsylvania educator, was one of around 100 protestors holding signs and dancing outside the summit Saturday afternoon. She asserted that while Moms for Liberty tries to assert more political power, she will continue to stand in its way.

“They are a very small minority who are trying to act like they represent this whole nation, and they do not,” said Cooney.

Moms for Liberty didn’t answer questions on which races it would focus on in 2024, besides making it clear it wouldn’t endorse in presidential or legislative races.

However, as the group said it wouldn’t get involved in the race for the White House, GOP candidates have tried to harness Moms for Liberty’s broad network and influence of more than 120,000 members in 45 states to woo its voting bloc and benefit their primary campaigns.

During the Philadelphia gathering, five Republican candidates gave speeches. They included former President Donald Trump and DeSantis. The rivals tried to outflank each other with statements that “woke ideology” had overtaken education and that pronouns and “critical race theory” needed to be banished from classrooms.

“I think moms are the key political force for this 2024 cycle,” said DeSantis in his Friday address to attendees.

Other GOP presidential candidates at the summit included former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former U.N. Ambassador and Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley. If elected, he pledged to prioritize parental rights and shutter the U.S. Department of Education.

“The membership of this organization is just a small tip of the iceberg of a broader pro-parent movement, pro-children movement in our country,” said Ramaswamy to reporters at the summit. “And so how important is that? You better believe it’s pretty darn important,”