Today PennLive reports that an Open Schools group is throwing big bucks into school board races in the state.
Back to School PA is a PAC that intends to drop a ton of money all over the state to back school board candidates who want to make sure that schools are open for in person learning. The money behind the group comes from Paul Martino, a venture capitalist who has been busy mostly in the world of sports and gaming, but on the subject of opening schools was just an angry parent. If watch him talk, he has swallowed the entire Learning Loss panic.
Martino is teamed up with Clarice Schillinger, who previously organized Keeping Kids in School PAC, which grew out of Parents for In Person Education. That PAC backed 94 candidates in various primary board races (mostly in the southeastern corner of PA) and 92 of them were successful. Schillinger also helped float a multi-family lawsuit against a school district in an attempt to force it open (that was under "Voice for Choice--Open Our Schools")
If it seems as if they know how to play this game well, that may be because of Schillinger herself/ Although she is invariably described as a "mom," her last full-time job was as a staffer for a Republican Senator. Previously she worked as an executive assistant for the county housing authority and for Delamor Enterprises, a company that operates some McDonald's in the Chambersburg area. She just finished a BA in human resources from Penn State (Class of '20). These days she works as a system administrator at Charles River Laboratories.
In short, Schillinger has not been sitting around the house in her apron baking cookies to sell in order to raise money for her cause. Like most of the "moms" in front of these groups, she's politically seasoned and well-connected. The "mom" nomenclature is an odd journalistic choice, as if Bill Gates were routinely described as a "dad interested in helping schools."
The story of this latest group is that Schillinger and Martino just kind of bumped into each other on line, discovered a shared passion for forcing schools to be open. Just a mom and a rich guy who happened to connect.
The Open School movement might be easier to support if that passion for open school buildings resulted in demands that school districts put appropriate safeguards in place, upgrade ventilation, cut class sizes to ease social distancing--all the kind of stuff that makes it possible to open schools safely. But that never seems to be the case, and it's not the case here. Teacher requests for adequate ventilation are dismissed as an unfair moving of the goalposts.
If it seems like there are a ton of these groups, well, there are. Back To School PA Pac has a whole page you can use to contact the group in your county. And if it seems to you that schools in PA are actually mostly open already, Schillinger hints that they might all close right after the election in November.
So one more mom group. It's hard sometimes to tell whether this keeps happening because women are routinely stripped of their professional role, or because these groups want to use the word "mom" as cover, masking professional well-organized activism with the notion of nice homebodies who are just trying to make some nice, sincere amateur grassroots noise. But whatever you believe about such groups, Pennsylvania has another of them, and they are coming for a school board election near you.