The Shadow War to Take Back The Classroom

The conservative revolution starts with your local school board, says the 1776 Project PAC founder in an exclusive interview.

As the Republican primary intensifies in the lead-up to the 2024 election, Ryan Girdusky, Founder of the 1776 Project PAC, warns that more attention should be paid to local school board elections.

Launched in 2021, the PAC is the only national group exclusively dedicated to electing conservatives to school boards. It has already been involved in nearly 100 conservative candidate races in states like Wisconsin, Illinois, and Texas. In an exclusive interview with Upward News, Girdusky explains why the local level is the essential battleground to fight for the future of the country.

Classrooms under siege

Education has become a vital issue for conservatives, where concerns about Critical Race Theory, transgender ideology, and the legacy of COVID-19 shutdowns have sparked parental concern and teacher backlash.

"Public schools are failing,” Girdusky told Upward News. “We've had total and massive destruction of our children's ability to learn." He refers to falling test scores and "decades [of] progress being completely wiped up."

He asserts that a "genuine dissatisfaction with public education" is growing amongst Americans, a dissatisfaction which extends to the teaching methods, such as No Child Left Behind and Common Core, Bush and Obama-era policies still used in schools today.

The introduction of those policies ushered in a landmark transformation of U.S. education, putting a focus on standardized testing, to the detriment of actual education, and entrenching the federal government further into local schools.

A shifting strategy

After decades of setbacks, the Republican playbook is dramatically shifting. Historically, Republicans have championed deregulation, school vouchers, and private education. However, as Girdusky aptly points out, this approach ignores more than 80% of American students who go to public school: "Why would you want to leave out the majority of children?"

By shifting the focus away from private institutions and towards the reform of public education, Republicans can bring their influence to bear where it truly counts, Girdusky believes. From President Trump’s 1776 plan to reform students’ education in response to the 1619 Project, or Governor Ron DeSantis’ bills attacking CRT and gender ideology, Republicans are adopting a new footing in the culture war that has poisoned schools.

On the ground

Despite the spotlight on national politics, Girdusky argues that most significant politics occur locally — and can often have a larger impact on families' day-to-day life than federal policies. "The people who decide your local zoning laws have far more say on your quality of life than your member of Congress,” he said.

This reframed strategy is more than just a change in policy preference; it's a redefinition of the conservative approach to politics in general. Rather than prioritizing privatization or decentralization, conservatives are now actively shaping the country from the ground up — from the local school board to Governor's Offices to the White House.

Responding to opposition

When asked about how to combat opposition from the left, Girdusky recommends a focus on transparency. There's been a backlash against conservatives due to perceptions of book banning, which he sees as a major concern from parents that should be addressed.

Girdusky advocates for a practical approach – instead of fighting over “banned” books, it would be more effective to expose what is in these controversial books, from explicit pornography to radical gender ideology.

This may prove tough as the Left mobilizes forces to paint Republicans as extremists in response to the right-wing success in school board elections. “There's a number of left-wing PACs,” that have mysteriously sprung up in recent months, Girdusky told us. “They didn't exist when I started, but they've quickly been created.”

Democratic states such as Illinois and New Jersey are standing against Republican drives to purge explicit books from libraries. But under the surface, it's more than just a debate about books — it's a move towards more state oversight of school boards and a counter-action against growing conservative influence at the grassroots level.

A blueprint for conservatives

The 1776 Project PAC's strategy of focusing on local school board elections can provide a blueprint for Republicans looking to make impactful changes in their communities. In the end, it may be these local elections — rather than the high-stakes national ones — that hold the key to substantial and lasting change.

With public education at the forefront of 2024, the success of locally-focused projects like these will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the nation. “Most of your politics is done at a local level — and most politics is not a very sexy thing. That's just the truth,” Girdusky says. “But it is much more important.”