By JULIE CARR SMYTH and PATTY NIEBERG
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Races for local school board seats have emerged as intense political battlegrounds in the upcoming Nov. 2 elections across the U.S. Parental protests that started during COVID-19 lockdowns are evolving into full-fledged board takeover campaigns. National conservative groups offering training academies for right-leaning candidates are helping stoke the challenges, which could have a dramatic effect on public education if they succeed. Takeover supporters say school boards and teachers unions have lost touch with parents, while some sitting board members say the challengers are political extremists. National education groups say the races are being used to test messaging ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.