Saturday, May 31, 2008

Do School Board Candidates have Hidden Agendas?

I told you I'd look into the candidates for school board this year, and I have. This year there are 37 applicants in 6 districts, most of whom filed on the deadline day. So who are these people? Are they knowledgeable about our public school system and the role they hope to play? Do they have hidden agendas or even publicly stated biases against public schools? Will the best candidates be forwarded on to the Governor by the Nominating Committee? Could there really be a subversive attempt to take over the State School Board or am I just being a paranoid loon? We'll soon find out, but here are a few things to consider.

As mentioned in previous posts, there are a record number of candidate filings and if the past is any indication there are certainly some candidates who are being sponsored by groups that don't have the best interests of public education in mind. It's a little difficult to say for sure who these people might be, but we can make a few connections and go from there. The point of this post is to point out that there exists the possibility for foul play, and it's up to the public to continue to be vigilant, demand a fair process and insist that the committee continue to allow the public to attend the meetings.

Consider that there are candidates who have obvious ties to Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) and a public position in favor of vouchers:

  • Dave Thomas is a former legislator who received financial contributions from PCE and publicly supports vouchers.
  • Bill Colbert, incumbent, was supported in his initial effort by PCE and publicly supports vouchers
  • Lincoln Fillmore is the communications director for Parents for Choice and participated in debates glorifying vouchers.
  • Mark Cluff, incumbent, was supported in his initial effort by PCE and publicly supports vouchers
  • Erin Allen Madsen is the wife of Senator Mark Madsen who is another strong PCE and voucher supporter.
  • Kyle Bateman is a trustee for Children First Utah, an organization giving "scholarships" to attend private schools, and closely tied to PCE
  • Jill Rea (this one is a stretch, admittedly) is the sister of Stan Lockhart who is the state chair of the Republican party and a vocal supporter of vouchers.
This list also includes two candidates who have already dropped out but that were pro-voucher and/or PCE connected: Roberta Herzberg and Leah Barker.

Another list we could make would be the candidates who are involved with Charter Schools. I don't want to get into the debate that Charter Schools are public schools, I realize they are and there is much good to be said about them. It's no secret, however, that we do have independent Charter Schools that would prefer to be private, and would jump from charter to private status, so they could charge tuition and avoid public school accountability requirements, should vouchers ever become the law. Again, this is by no means meant to be a witch hunt; it's a search for objectivity as the Nominating Committee moves forward on June 2nd to make a final decision about whom they will promote as worthy for a public vote.

Charter school connected individuals and possible voucher proponents include:
  • Susie Campbell Ashliman, former charter school board member
  • Chris Dallin, Board Chair, Syracuse Arts Academy
  • Dave Crandall, chair of the Board of Summit Academy charter school
  • Ted H. Heap, husband of the founder of American Prep Academy, charter school
  • David J. Adamic, husband of the Charter School board chair and charter school principal.
Here is the full list of candidates by District with those discussed above listed in italics. Furthermore, those who are incumbents are listed in purple text. I believe that at the very least those who have already been elected once by the people deserve to stand for re-election. I've also indicated candidates that have ties to public schools with orange text.

District 1

Susie Campbell Ashliman
Shelly Locke
Lorie Pearce
Teresa L Theurer

District 4

H. Kay Chandler
Chris L. Dallin
Stephen Hunter
Richard W. Sadler
Dave Thomas

District 7

Leslie Brooks Castle
Janice White Clemmer
Carlton A. Getz
Randall A. Mackey
Mark H. Swonson

District 11

Rose W Westover
Bill Colbert
Dave Crandall
Lincoln Fillmore
Ralph J. Haws
Ted H. Heap

District 12

David J. Adamic
Mark Cluff
Erin Allen Madsen
Carol A. Murphy
John Schmeltzer

District 13

Kyle Bateman
Jeremy Blickenstaff
Ammon Cunningham
C. Mark Openshaw
Jill Rea
Alden LeGrand Richards


Anonymous said...

The Left keeps saying that charter schools, or at least some of them, want to go private. Which charter schools are these? Can you name any?

Sara Brate said...

That's a good question. Ask the charter schools in your area if they supported the voucher campaign. If they did, there must be a good reason.

I'll see what I can do about finding concrete examples, but is it really a stretch to assume any different? Especially for a charter school run by an independent board. They must certainly consider that if they were a private school they would have more autonomy and make the switch. Each year we see more legislation that addresses more autonomy for charter schools. In other states charter schools are much more like private schools; they don't have the same accountability that Utah requires.

Howard said...

Sara, this just gets more and more fun! I am the founder of American Prep Academy and my wife would be surprised to hear that I am also married to Ted Heap! My two sisters are co-founders, but they aren't married to Ted either. Nonetheless, what is wrong with charter school folks being interested in the State School Board. There are now tens of thousands of students attending charter schools, enough to represent one of the largest districts in the state. Why shouldn't we have folks who understand charter schools on the state board. To suggest that this too is part of some anti-education conspiracy is rather offensive to someone who has volunteered and contributed years of my life to the education of children in Utah.

Howard said...

Sara, all the assets of our charter school belong to the state, so that would make converting to a private school IMPOSSIBLE! Anyone involved at any level with charter schools should understand this. The only people who talk about this are the anti-charter school conspiracy theorists. It is just simply not true.

caring said...

Thank you for your information. As a parent who supports our neighborhood public school, I want to know who has ties to what. I know several folks who are affiliated with charter schools, and they all supported vouchers... without exception. Admittedly, I am limited only to those in my realm of experience.

The majority of voters in this state do not want to see tax dollars go to private schools. We need this type of information to make wise decisions at the polls.

Spencer said...

As a parent with children in Utah Public Schools, I am getting tired of the UEA propaganda that anyone who has an idea for improving schools is "anti-schools." Just because someone is trying to reform our system, whether it is vouchers, merit pay for teachers, or cutting administrative overhead, does not mean they are not strong advocates for schools or teachers. To the contrary, I believe our schools need reform! The local elementary school in our neighborhood just had a new parking lot installed to replace one that was perfectly fine, at a cost of over one million dollars!!! Yet, teachers in that school are underpaid and over worked. This is the system that we are so zelously defending?? I vote for reformers. Lets get someone who is NOT a teacher or administrator in the school board. Someone with fresh ideas who can take on the UEA establishment and give teachers real help instead of rhetoric.