National School Boards Assn. set to lose tens of millions over ‘domestic terrorist’ letter to Biden admin

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The National School Boards Association is set to lose millions of dollars in revenue after the organization sent a letter to the Biden administration earlier this fall accusing some parents of engaging in behaviors at school board meetings that amounted to “domestic terrorism.”

Even though the association has since apologized for sending the letter in late September, several state-level organizations have since cut ties with the NSBA over the letter and its appeal to the Biden administration for federal law enforcement assistance, a request that was acted upon by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

According to Axios, at least 17 state-level organizations have ended their membership in NSBA, and collectively, the dues state organizations were paying account for more than 40 percent of the NSBA’s total operating budget.

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

It “has caused further devastation to the already dangerously fragile financial position of NSBA in the loss of revenue in the millions” and “abated coordinated, national efforts around issues of educational equity,” he added.

Some state-level organizations have explained why they are no longer part of the NSBA.

Axios noted that Alabama’s state association allowed its membership to expire “due to long-standing concerns with the organization’s governance,” said executive director Sally Smith in a statement to the outlet.

“We have no confidence that NSBA can effectively meet those needs, so we will be pursuing other options to provide these services to Alabama’s school board members,” Smith noted further.

A memo provided to Axios noted that the North Carolina school board leadership is working with other associations to “ensure national advocacy,” the outlet reported.

Also, according to Axios:

— “The Florida School Boards Association recently amended its bylaws to strike a requirement that it maintain NSBA membership, and to allow for membership in an alternative national or regional organization.”

— “With an investment available on par with what we are currently spending on engagement in NSBA, we could viably recreate these services through another mechanism in collaboration with others,” the Montana association noted in an internal memo.

— “The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has started gauging interest among other states in creating a new such umbrella group.”

According to NSBA records, the 17 state organizations that have cut ties paid $1.1 million in annual dues collectively, or about 42 percent of the $2.6 million in dues from state-level orgs collected last year. The national association also takes in dues from around 1,200 individual school districts that amounted to around $5.3 million this year, though some school districts have also severed ties.

In their initial appeal to Biden, the NSBA’s top two officials claimed that public school boards were “under an immediate threat.”

“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation,” the letter from NSBA President Viola Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven began.

“Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech. However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs,” the letter noted further.

Subsequent reports indicated that the NSBA coordinated with White House officials before sending the appeal to Biden.

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