Letter comparing parents’ protests to domestic terrorism sparks financial fallout

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The nation’s leading school board advocacy group faces a critical loss of funding and membership after sending a letter comparing parental protests and threats of domestic terrorism.

Why is this important: The National School Boards Association has since apologized, but the payoff could be up to seven figures from annual funding. At least 17 state affiliates have severed ties with the group – and some are even considering creating a competitor.

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The big picture: Officials fear upheavals within the organization – the nation’s largest trade group representing U.S. public schools – could cripple it just as national debates over school curricula and COVID-19 mitigation measures dominate the conversation Politics.

  • The controversy “has weakened a national voice for public education,” wrote Steve Gallon III, a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board and chairman of the NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, in an email to to the leadership of the NSBA last month.

  • It “caused further devastation to the NSBA’s already dangerously fragile financial position by losing millions in revenue” and “slowed coordinated national efforts around education equity issues,” Gallon wrote.

What they say : The Alabama School Board Association has allowed its membership to expire “due to long-standing concerns about the governance of the organization,” executive director Sally Smith told Axios in a statement.

Smith called the letter and the fallout “symptoms of this dysfunction.”

Long-standing concerns have also been cited by the North Carolina and Florida school board associations.

  • “We are not convinced that the NSBA can effectively meet these needs, so we will be looking for other options to provide these services to members of the Alabama school board,” Smith added.

  • The North Carolina school board leadership also cited efforts to work with other associations to ensure continued national advocacy in a note provided to Axios.

  • Widespread concerns were evident in a report compiled by state associations in early 2020, which pointed out, among other things, a new membership fee payment structure that required larger financial commitments from state associations.

In numbers : The 17 state associations that severed ties with the NSBA collectively paid $ 1.1 million in annual dues to the organization in 2019, according to NSBA files submitted at a recent Florida School meeting. Boards Association.

  • This represented about 42% of the $ 2.6 million in dues paid by state school board associations that year, and $ 1 in $ 8 in total dues revenue.

  • The group gets more revenue from dues directly from school districts, with more than 1,200 providing nearly $ 5.3 million this year, according to NSBA records. Like state associations, some of these districts also severed ties with the group this fall.

  • The $ 1.1 million figure likely underestimates financial support from state associations, which also includes contributions related to NSBA conferences and events.

  • The Montana School Boards Association, for example, had initially budgeted $ 68,000 for the payment of 2021-2022 dues. But he estimated his total financial commitment to be much higher, at nearly $ 160,000. He voted last month to leave the NSBA.

An NSBA spokesperson told Axios 2019 figures “do not reflect the full or current state of affairs for the NSBA” but declined to give details.

  • “The NSBA continues to have the resources we need to be effective on behalf of our members, and we will work tirelessly to advance our mission and continually improve as an organization,” the spokesperson said.

Some state associations are nevertheless in talks on creating a new national defense group that would rival the NSBA – and potentially poach other members.

  • The Florida School Boards Association recently amended its bylaws to require it to remain a member of the NSBA and allow membership in another national or regional organization.

  • “With an available investment comparable to what we are currently spending on engagement with the NSBA, we could sustainably recreate these services through another mechanism in collaboration with others,” the Montana association wrote in a note. internal.

  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has started to gauge interest from other states in creating a new coordinating group.

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