(In These Times) -- Sauda Baraka didn’t pursue a spot on the Bridgeport, Conn., Board of Education thinking it would be a springboard to higher office. As her children went through Bridgeport’s public schools, she saw herself simply as an “involved parent”—until 2004, when the Republican Party recruited her to run for the board. Connecticut reserves three seats on all school boards for a minority party—and at the time in Bridgeport, long dominated by a Democratic Party machine, the minority party was Republican. She accepted, and won.
After Baraka spent four years pressing for more funding for the schools and more transparency about operations, the Republicans “kicked me to the curb,” she tells In These Times. “I guess they didn’t like my politics.”
Baraka’s distaste for corporate-style education reform didn’t endear her to the Democrats in the city, either; as in many places around the country, school privatization is a bipartisan affair. But she didn’t give up. Instead, she made plans to run that year as an independent. Then a friend of hers introduced her to the Connecticut Working Families Party (WFP), which was considering a bid for those minority spots on the board. “I liked the grassroots process,” Baraka says. “I liked what they were saying. I liked what their platform was. I could support pretty much everything that they were doing.” She ran on the WFP ticket in 2009 and won, as did another WFP candidate for the board, Maria Pereira.
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