A pro-parent organization had a blockbuster night in Tuesday’s school board elections, winning a majority of its races and with more victories to come when final tallies are released, organizers told Delaware Valley Journal.
“Sixty percent of our candidates won,” said Paul Martino, the Bucks County dad and venture capitalist who bankrolled the Back to School PA PAC. “What we did by showing up, we put the other team on notice we were here.”
Martino put in $500,000 of his own money and nearly $200,000 more came from other sources. Martino’s vision was to give $10,000 to slates of local school board candidates statewide who supported parental rights and in-person education. Thanks to the additional funding Back to School was able to support 60 slates of candidates, 10 more than the additional 50 originally planned.
As of Friday morning, 113 out of 171 candidates backed by the pack were winners, bringing the percentage up to 65 percent. However, some races, particularly in Montgomery County, have not been called due to problems with 6,000 misprinted ballots. There are 30 still pending, Martino said. So that number could go even higher.
Horsham mom Clarice Schillinger, who founded Keeping Kids in School PAC, was also happy with the results. “I am thrilled that we activated parents throughout the entire state to be more interested in their (kids) well-being, for their kids and their education. And I don’t think this is a one-time thing.”
Schillinger has joined forces with Martino and is now the executive director of the Back to School PA PAC.
“Look at what happened in Virginia,” Martino said. “The exit poll in Virginia said that 70 percent of the people who voted in Virginia, the number one issue was related to schools, curriculum, etc.”
“What we did here in Pennsylvania, what happened in Virginia, etc., shows we are finally waking up parents as to how important school districts are and local races are,” said Martino. “Usually people only get this excited about the presidential elections. If people get this excited about odd-year school board elections, this is good. This is stuff that affects you and your kids. I know everyone gets animated about who the president is, but who your school board member is might matter more to your kids than who the president is.”
“The school boards in Pennsylvania have the right to authorize new taxes,” said Martino. “These are powerful positions, even though they are unpaid and sometimes below the radar. I am thrilled that we’ve now activated parents throughout the entire state to be more interested in the well-being of their kids and their education. I don’t think this is a one-time thing. I think these parents are now woken up and they are going to pay attention to these elections for years to come.”
Asked about the pushback he received since getting involved in local school politics, Martino said, “I am disappointed by it but I am not surprised,” said Martino. “Make no mistake. I knew this would happen.”
“I told my wife and kids, ‘If we go do this, they’re going to paint us to be the villains.’ It’s amazing, with all the money that’s in local school board races, from local C-4s [non-profit organizations], unions, etc., somehow all of that money is okay, but when Paul Martino, a concerned dad, shows up at bat, it’s a problem,” Martino said.
“That’s what really galls me a little bit. They have every right to write those checks. I have every right to write those checks. Why was I the bad guy and they were the good guys… (I’m) disappointed with the villainization I got.”
Martino says the education issue breaks down partisan barriers.
“Even though I am a Republican, a lot of our candidates were Democrats and a lot were Democrats who switched to Republican because they couldn’t get endorsed by their own party,” said Martino. “This was a bipartisan group we created…a good 30 percent of our candidates were Democrats, they still try to paint us as right-wing villains…Unbelievable! You can’t make it up.”
But that’s not going to stop him.
“We haven’t figured out what we’re going to do next but Clarice and I are going to keep Back to School going,” Martino said. “We’ve not built a statewide, grassroots organization. We know there’s going to be a second act…We managed in six months to have candidates in a third of the state. We’re thrilled with what we did.”
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