Yesterday’s Minnpost blog post describes a “Tsunami” of cash flowing into the school board election in Minneapolis MN (hat tip to Diane Ravitch). It seems that there hare hundreds of thousands being spent on the election for two at-large seats in Minneapolis, and based on some on line research it is unclear to even political insiders why there is so much money flowing into this election… But given the sources of funding flowing into the newly created “Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund (Bloomberg’s giving $100,000 and TFA’s giving $90,000) and the fact that one of the candidates endorsed by the group has stated his desire to eliminate tenure, it is possible that those investing in the election hope to invest in for-profit charter schools. ele
The fact that the school board candidates have platitudinous campaigns makes it easy for them to sidestep questions like “Why are you allowing outside money to help fund your election?” or, perhaps more pointedly, “What do you think the outside investors will ask you to do on their behalf once you are elected and how comfortable are you with they likely requests?” or, to allow as little wiggle room as possible:”When he was mayor on NYC, Bloomberg replaced “failing public schools” with for-profit schools staffed by inexperienced teachers from TFA. What is your position on that strategy?” In elections where hundreds of thousands of dollars are flowing in, these questions need to be posed to those running for office and the candidates responses need to be shared widely. But as MN blogger Eric Ferguson noted in one of his posts, many voters are completely unaware of local elections…. but that may change this time since the new money flowing in is resulting in negative campaign flyers being sent to homes and negative robocalls being placed to voters. As the school board election in Minneapolis demonstrates, money makes a difference in campaigns— and not in a good way!
The Google feed provided a link to a thought provoking article that appeared in the Independent Journal Review (IJR) titled “The Pamphlet Give Out to Kids in Public Schools, An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible” is Unacceptable”.
Here’s the background: The Freedom from Religion Foundation, (FFRF) announced plans to hand out materials at 11 public schools within Orange County, Florida, on January 16, National Religious Freedom Day. The Orange County Board sued to prevent the distribution of the materials, in part because the cover of the pamphlet, depicted below, was deemed by many people to be a smear against Christianity. Andrew Seidel, the FFRF attorney, rebutted this charge by noting that “some of the things that are in the Bible in terms of sex and compare that to the cover [of the pamphlet], the cover is pretty tame compared to anything that is in the Bible”.
The article goes on to note that “Seidel contended that despite the fact that the material may offend Christians, it is only fair since atheists feel the same way when Bibles are handed out in public schools.”
In many respects members of other religions should be grateful to the FFRF for raising this issue in a “religion vs. atheism” context because I believe that Muslims would feel as unsettled by the distribution of the Bible as Christians might feel unsettled by the distribution of the Koran. I recall from debates held at school board meetings regarding the provision of an opportunity for the distribution of Gideon’s Bibles on school grounds that we ultimately denied permission on the “slippery slope” argument. Namely, if we granted permission to one religious group we’d have to allow opportunities for ANY religious group to distribute materials…. which is precisely the argument the FFRF is making…. and what is the result?
On January 3, 2014 OCPS and FFRF came to an agreement and on June 3, 2014 a Motion to Dismiss was handed down which detailed that the “defendant unconditionally agreed to allow Plaintiffs to distribute the materials that Defendant had previously prohibited.”
Seidel has concluded that OCPS had backed down due to the illegality that the school could not forbid the distribution of FFRF material while simultaneously allowing the dissemination of the Bible in its schools.
Seidel indicated that the FFRF intends to launch similar actions against other school boards who allow the distribution of Bibles. My continued advice to boards: beware of the slippery slope!
Education blogger Jeff Bryant asserted in his column yesterday that education policy could be a determining factor in several gubernatorial races in the coming weeks. But, as he notes, in some cases it will result in the election of a “lesser-of-two-evils” candidate as opposed to the election of a candidate who is willing to undo the budget cuts, evisceration of contracts, and emphasis on standardized testing. While polling data indicates that “The top testing turnout message overall emphasizes education, specifically Republicans’ efforts to cut programs for students while giving tax cuts to the wealthy”, the fact remains that several candidates getting hefty support from teachers unions are NOT advocates of increased funding but rather less strident in they opposition to education than their opponents.
As I’ve noted in several earlier posts, I hope that public education advocates will NOT be forced to choose between the lesser of two evils in 2016. Those who seek increased public education funding should rally behind whichever Presidential aspirant pledges to end the standardized testing regimen that has been in place for a generation and the privatization movement that NCLB and RTTT has aided and abetted. If the testing is not stopped the drumbeat of “failing public schools” will continue and the public will be increasingly disinclined to fund a failing enterprise.