Politico reported that rightwing cultural warriors lost most school board elections, despite their big-money backers. Voters in Illinois and Wisconsin were not swayed by fear-mongering about critical race theory, LGBT issues, and other spurious claims of the extremists. These results should encourage the Democratic Party to challenge the attacks on public schools in the 2024 elections. An aggressive defense of public schools is good politics.

Amid all the attention on this month’s elections in Wisconsin and Illinois, one outcome with major implications for 2024 flew under the national radar: School board candidates who ran culture-war campaigns flamed out.

Democrats and teachers’ unions boasted candidates they backed in Midwestern suburbs trounced their opponents in the once-sleepy races. The winning record, they said, was particularly noticeable in elections where conservative candidates emphasized agendas packed with race, gender identity and parental involvement in classrooms.

While there’s no official overall tally of school board results in states that held an array of elections on April 4, two conservative national education groups did not dispute that their candidates posted a losing record. Liberals are now making the case that their winning bids for school board seats in Illinois and Wisconsin show they can beat back Republican attacks on divisive education issues.

The results could also serve as a renewed warning to Republican presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis: General election voters are less interested in crusades against critical race theory and transgender students than they are in funding schools and ensuring they are safe.

“Where culture war issues were being waged by some school board candidates, those issues fell flat with voters,” said Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association labor union. “The takeaway for us is that parents and community members and voters want candidates who are focused on strengthening our public schools, not abandoning them.”

The results from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas are hardly the last word on the matter. Thousands more local school elections are set for later this year in some two dozen states. They are often low turnout, low profile, and officially nonpartisan affairs, and conservatives say they are competing aggressively.

“We lost more than we won” earlier this month, said Ryan Girdusky, founder of the conservative 1776 Project political action committee, which has ties to GOP megadonor and billionaire Richard Uihlein and endorsed an array of school board candidates this spring and during the 2022 midterms.

“But we didn’t lose everything. We didn’t get obliterated,” Girdusky told POLITICO of his group’s performance. “We still pulled our weight through, and we just have to keep on pushing forward on this.”

Labor groups and Democratic operatives are nevertheless flexing over the defeat of candidates they opposed during races that took place near Chicago, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from state Democrats and the attention of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, and in Wisconsin. Conservative board hopefuls also saw mixed results in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Democrats hope the spring school election season validates their playbook: Coordinate with local party officials, educator unions and allied community members to identify and support candidates who wield an affirming pro-public education message — and depict competitors as hard-right extremists.

Yet despite victories in one reliably blue state and one notorious battleground, liberals are still confronting Republican momentum this year that could resemble November’s stalemated midterm results for schools and keep the state of education divided along partisan lines.

Conservative states are already carrying out sharp restrictions on classroom lessons, LGBTQ students, and library books. And they are beginning to refine their message to appeal to moderates.

Trump, DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republican presidential hopefuls are leaning on school-based wedge issues to court primary voters in a crowded White House campaign.

Open the link. The wedge issues are working against the Republicans. Most people know and like their tearchers and their public schools.