After massive wins in school board elections across Florida, conservative board members Bridget Ziegler and April Carney told Breitbart News Saturday that public education in the Sunshine State is in for a “major reset.”
“We’re going to restore the integrity of public education because we’re focusing on educating — math, civics, you know, reading, writing — and not focused on inappropriate — sexualizing our children, inappropriate material, and any kind of political agenda just has no place there,” Ziegler, a Sarasota County board member who won reelection on August 23, said.
The Sarasota County School Board flipped from a 3-2 leftist majority to a 4-1 conservative majority.
Ziegler described Sarasota County as a “conservative county, but we had a liberal majority for decades.”
“A lot of times people didn’t pay attention,” she explained. “We have a great school district, but you have a liberal majority where they started to really push it — the gender ideology and the CRT components. And so flipping it to a 4-1, like super majority conservative is incredibly exciting.”
When asked what steps need to be taken and how far the boards need to be willing to go to represent Sarasota parents, Ziegler said many of the reforms passed by Florida’s legislature and enacted by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are a big step in the right direction. One of the issues is teacher training.
“So even the most amazing educators have had professional development, and then they don’t even realize that this has been pushed as much as it has been,” she explained. “Vendors are pushing a lot of this stuff more so than educators, I always try to make this distinction. People are trying to attack teachers. It really isn’t, lot of times, teachers — we have great educators out there, you know, especially the ones who’ve been there for a while.”
“It’s the instructional materials,” Ziegler continued. “So you really, as a board, setting that tone and saying, ‘This is not allowed. We need to vet our material. It is our responsibility to make sure we know what is accessible to our students. That’s what parents expect of us.’”
Carney, a newcomer to the school board, who won the election in Duval County which includes the city of Jacksonville, also said teacher training needs to come under control. Her school board also flipped from liberal to conservative on August 23.
“It’s not in your face,” she said of Duval County regarding some of the indoctrination schemes put in place by left-wing boards across the country. “It’s something that you’re seeing in teacher training and how the teachers are being taught to teach the curriculum.”
“Just recently, over the summer, during a teacher training, I had spoken to a teacher that says, ‘You know, we’re getting all this information that’s a supplement to the state curriculum that’s coming from the Anti-Defamation League, and a lot of it was very concerning — basically, teaching activism in the classroom,’” Carney explained.
She also said there are new sexual education materials up for approval that are “really concerning.”
“We just have some new materials that are up for approval that are really — for the age groups that they’re being introduced — really concerning,” she said. “I don’t think a fifth grader needs to know how to put a condom on. I just don’t think that at that age, that that’s appropriate at all.”
“We should be teaching abstinence, and we shouldn’t be teaching, you know, how to protect yourself from pregnancy when you’re 11 years old” Carney continued. “That’s just not something that an 11-year-old should even be thinking about.”
Gov. DeSantis was a major figure across Florida for bringing awareness to the education issues and to school board races, Ziegler and Carney told Breitbart News Saturday.
Regarding her endorsement from DeSantis, Carney said, “I think that it brought awareness to the importance of local races, and, you know, specifically school board races. I mean, I think we all know, four years ago, a lot of us just weren’t paying attention to down-ballot races.”
Ziegler said DeSantis “shined a light on this.”
“He knows how important it is,” she continued. “I mean, I think because he’s a parent of young kids, he understands the impact of how important it is that we have quality education. Floridians overwhelmingly support his agenda and his education agenda.”
“I think it’s so funny that there’s so many, especially like hard-left liberals that are shocked by this,” she continued. “And then you say, ‘I’m not because, at the end of the day, these are common sense issues.’”
“[Liberals] have been the loud, loud, minority — but loud, loud — and really pushing everything, and everyone’s terrified to speak up,” Ziegler said. “But you have bold leadership, like DeSantis, who’s hitting it on the head, and then this is the outcome, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Conservatives continuing to move forward on the education issue, to Ziegler and Carney, is contingent upon continued awareness, involvement, and political action at the school board level from parents and community members.
“For too long, so many people have just kind of been asleep at the wheel and handing their children over to public school and expecting them to raise their children at the same time,” Ziegler explained. “And I think that the school districts and certain special interest groups have exploited that, and use that as an opportunity to push an agenda, which we now see the backlash on that.”
“We have diverse communities, which we represent, that have different religious backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and we respect that our job is to educate,” she continued. “Their families, they can raise their children based on the beliefs … however, they want to raise their children. … I’m a huge supporter and advocate of parental rights, but I also, you know, I think we need to refocus on parental responsibility.”
“In my mind, if we as conservatives don’t maintain our focus on education, we’re doing a disservice to the principles of this country,” she said.
“You know, everybody has a little piece that they can get involved in, it doesn’t have to be necessarily running for office,” Carney said. “I think you know, if you just get out in the community, get involved in your schools, get involved in your local government, find out the schedules of these club meetings where people are getting involved, or you know, showing up and just voicing your opinion to your local city council or school board, it makes a huge difference. Because, you know, as soon as one person stands up, and other people see what you’re doing, then it rallies other people to do the same thing.”
Grassroots efforts to educate communities about issues regarding the school board and helping candidates run for office are essential to finding success nationally in school board elections, Ziegler said, but it will take a dynamic shift among conservatives who previously had not paid much attention to the issue.
“We [conservatives] talked about education, or you’d hear conservatives talk about education, but really not focus the time and attention on school boards, which have a huge impact in the direction, the trajectory of our children, their communities, and the future of our country,” she said. “I’m sorry that this is where it starts.
“The grassroots movement has been hugely impactful to this across the country,” she continued. “Groups like Moms for Liberty have made a huge impact in this and really helped push this forward and, mind you, that it’s organized and led by former school board members.”
“Liberals have had control of our school systems for decades,” Ziegler said. “And so, there’s a lot of people, especially in the conservative movement, that are not necessarily privy to the playbook.”
Liberal control is why it is so important for prospective candidates to be educated, trained, and shown grassroots support on the issues because “when you get on these boards, they’re going to try to make you succumb to groupthink,” Ziegler warned.
“So many conservatives care deeply about our country, believe in the principles, understand why our country is so great if we do not step up,” she said. “And like I said, the grassroots movement has been pivotal to this and we need to keep that momentum up. People do need to step up, and school board local elections are absolutely where it’s at. There’s nothing more important than the education of our future generations and there are thousands and thousands, if not millions, of people there to help you. You’re not alone.”
Running, however, is not an easy feat. Carney faced fierce opposition from her opponents and local media who tried their best to distort her image to the residents of Duval County.
“If the other side doesn’t agree with you, they’re going to come after you hard and they don’t have any problems making up stories or telling untruths and putting things out there that not only hurt you as a person but hurt your family or your friends,” she explained. “And they came at me really hard.”
“Running ads, putting words in my mouth that weren’t there, you know, splicing video to make me look like I was saying things I wasn’t saying,” she continued. “Really, at the end of the day, all I am is a mother and a small business owner that just wants the children in our community to get a proper education.”
Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.