From Denver, Colorado, to Loudoun County, Virginia, people are fed up with their school boards. They have reason to be. Parents everywhere feel like they aren’t being heard. School boards are detached from the communities they serve and focused on political or self-interested agendas over their students’ well-being.
Many protests focus on efforts to incorporate critical race theory into teacher trainings and student curriculums. The Biden administration is even pressing a grant-giving program to encourage districts to introduce the CRT-based 1619 Project into curricula.
Conservatives agree we must teach about slavery, racism, and the civil rights movement in schools. We also celebrate America’s achievements in eradicating slavery and subverting racism. We recognize you cannot distill America’s powerful story of the struggle for freedom down to one horrid, original sin.
This is a huge reason for growing pushback, but it’s by no means the only one. School boards nationwide are infected with a combination of arrogance and self-righteousness — the kind of hubris that leads Loudoun County schools to arrest parents for speaking up at a board meeting. It’s the kind of conceit that makes school boards think they can operate without transparency or integrity.
A prime example is in Colorado, where Denver Public Schools school board member Tay Anderson, the state’s foremost Black Lives Matter figure, faces serious allegations that he sexually harassed or assaulted more than 60 teenage students, among other sexual misconduct allegations.
His colleagues on the DPS board have acted with astonishing cowardice. Days after these allegations came out on May 25, Anderson released a statement announcing he was “stepping back from everyday board functions” during the investigation. Yet Anderson’s colleagues gave their full blessing for his vote to approve the new superintendent on June 3. Afterward, Anderson promised to recuse himself from all board business until at least August, when school returns (a promise now in doubt).
Aghast at the board’s fecklessness, students took the lead themselves. 2021 DPS graduates created a petition for new diplomas without Anderson’s name on them, garnering nearly 14,000 signatures, and organized a protest at Denver’s City Council building. The school board hasn’t shown signs of listening. Instead, it has spent its time and money outsourcing everything from PR to legal counsel, hoping no one would notice.
After earlier allegations of sexual misconduct arose in April, the board commissioned Investigations Law Group to investigate Anderson. The accusations concerning students were added in May. While no districtwide emails went out to parents, the board released a statement media picked up. (Notably, one informational email finally went to parents on June 16, but only to parents at DPS’s North High School, ostensibly because Anderson had worked at North before his election.)
In early June, BoardHawk.org revealed DPS hired three outside PR firms to assist with communications, including one firm (Rockford Gray) tasked with the investigation. Despite the $3.8 million already allocated to the district’s 32-member in-house communications department, DPS already spent over $108,000 on those firms.
Last week, I reported that the district outsourced legal services, hiring attorney Kristin Edgar and the law firm Caplan & Earnest to “advise the Board” on the investigation. DPS’s in-house Office of General Counsel already costs more than $2 million for 10 attorneys, three legal assistants, and operations. Caplan & Earnest appears to be a top firm Colorado school districts hire when in hot water. How much more will they spend on outside attorneys at the go-to law firm?
What’s especially shocking is the utter lack of transparency. The board never announced it was hiring outside PR and law firms. It was discovered through open records requests and media digging. Why so secretive and nontransparent?
In 2019, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association donated $65,000 to Anderson’s campaign through two entities. It made a $38,750 contribution two weeks before his election. Two days later, board member Scott Baldermann personally donated $10,000. The union and Baldermann, silent on the Anderson allegations, invested in his success.
Just last week, the DCTA officially backed the reelection of DPS board Chairwoman Carrie Olson as its first 2021 endorsement. This leaves little hope for improvement, considering that the board, under Olson’s leadership, has been handling the Anderson matter so poorly. It also raises questions over whether the union, the school board, and their financial interests might have incentivized the board’s inaction.
With this kind of shady behavior and a refusal to listen to constituents, one must ask: From Denver to Loudoun County, do school boards work for parents and students — or unions and political agendas?
Jimmy Sengenberger is the host of Jimmy at the Crossroads, a webshow in partnership with The Washington Examiner that focuses on the intersection of politics and economics, as well as The Jimmy Sengenberger Show on Denver’s News/Talk 710 KNUS.
Author: Jimmy Sengenberger
Source: Washington Examiner: School boards put political agendas over students’ education