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Demonstrators protest critical race theory in schools in Leesburg, Va. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Efforts to recall school board members are surging around the U.S. — and especially in California — amid Republican efforts to quash teaching about institutional racism.

Why it matters: Coordinated efforts by conservative groups are shaping public education, fueled by controversies over race as as well as backlash to COVID-19 closures.

The big picture: Just halfway through 2021, at least 51 local recall efforts involving K-12 school boards have been initiated this year, targeting at least 130 elected members of those boards.

By the numbers: California alone is home to 22 of the current recall efforts. Arizona and Idaho follow with six and four recall efforts respectively.

  • By comparison, Ballotpedia counted a yearly average of 23 recall efforts against 52 school board members between 2006 and 2020.

The intrigue: Historically, school board recalls tended to stem from disputes over mismanagement, open meeting violations or allegations of corruption. But this year's campaigns focus on efforts to snuff out teachings on critical race theory and displeasure about mask requirements.

Reality check: Critical race theory — which holds that racism is baked into the formation of the nation and ingrained in our legal, financial and education systems — was developed in law schools in the 1970s and isn't really taught in grade school.

  • But some teachers have endured criticism for merely mentioning systemic racism in class or bringing up Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd last year.
  • Melissa Statz, a fourth-grade teacher in Wisconsin, last year was accused by some parents of "indoctrinating children" because she introduced lessons on racism. Her school was later hit with racist graffiti.

Don't forget: Elementary school teachers, administrators, and college professors are facing fines, physical threats, and fear of firing as states pass bans to restrict critical race theory in public schools.

  • Citizens for Renewing America, a group led by a White House budget director under former President Trump, offers activists model legislation to craft bans in their states.
  • The proposed legislation says that equity, intersectionality, social justice, and "woke" terms are racist ideas and falsely claims that critical race theory teaches that "one race or sex is superior to another race or sex."
  • Meanwhile, "Patriots for Delaware" in May endorsed five pro-school-reopening candidates for the state's elections, highlighting a local push to limit social justice discussions and defy mask mandates.
  • And parents in Pennsylvania formed their own political action committee to support school board candidates running to keep kids in school in person.

Go deeper

LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations amid staffing shortage

The first day of school at Montara Avenue Elementary School in California. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Los Angeles school district has extended its deadline for staff to get the COVID vaccine from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15.

Why it matters: The second-largest school district in the nation, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has struggled to fill thousands of vacancies, including teachers, counselors and maintenance staff, per the Los Angeles Times.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.