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Oswego community members protest national political influence in local school board race

Tara Donnelly of the Library Defense Collaborative speaks at the event
Kendra Whelan
Tara Donnelly of the Library Defense Collaborative speaks at the event

Many school boards have become political battlegrounds since 2020 when mask mandates came under fire. The intensity hasn’t let up in many communities and, in Illinois, school board races are just a few weeks away.

Jennifer Stamp is a mom with two kids who go to the Oswego Public Schools. She runs a local group called “Parents for Progress.” This weekend, she organized a demonstration protesting an event featuring several of her town’s school board candidates.

That’s because the event was hosted by the far-right Awake Illinois and features the national group “Gays Against Groomers” -- which advocates against gender-related issues in schools and shares anti-trans messages.

“I'm tired of outside influences coming into our school district,"she said, "and trying to elect extremist school board candidates that promote political agendas."

Stamp and other speakers say other candidates can’t compete when outside, national trainingand money gets involved in local school board races, which are nominally non-partisan.

“They are choosing candidates and hosting events," said the Oswego parent, "to advance their political agenda in places where they don't live and where their children don't attend school."

At this point in the race, Stamp says she would welcome some support from the Illinois Democratic Party as a short-term band-aid, but not as a long-term solution. State Democratic Party cash hasn’t gone into the Oswego race so far.

“Parents for Progress” were joined by several other groups at the protest, like Illinois Families for Public Schools & PFLAG.

The planned conservative candidate event was later moved from its venue to a private residence. The protest continued at the original location.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.