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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.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 17 hostages from a U.S.-based missionary group who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.

China's economic growth slows

A worker assembles heavy truck engines in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, on Monday. Photo: Long We/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

China's economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The gross domestic product growth in the July-September period in the world’s second-largest economy marked the "weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and slowing from 7.9% in the second quarter," Reuters notes.