By Scott Frostman, freelance journalist from Baraboo, WI
A nervous parent approaches the microphone and looks over the assembled board, whose faces range from smiles to furrowed brows of scorn. They’ve never offered opinions before, but what their child is experiencing has compelled them to speak aloud. Our public schools have become hotbeds of controversy with strident discussions over masking, vaccines and other logistics. Parents and community members want answers.
Many are dismayed to learn what’s happening in their children’s classroom, now having an insider’s look during virtual class time. Information contained in surveys seeking sensitive information about students and families, books inappropriate for age groups, and controversial and divisive materials in public school curricula have all brought this renewed attention to a peak. This awakening has cast new light on school board elections, mired in decades of domination by the unions. It’s time for big changes.
I’m an advocate for school choice but I wasn’t always that way. I initially saw the school choice program as a niche for students seeking a fresh environment beyond the logistical challenges of open enrolling. I pictured kids whose school experience was like my own where they were outcast, harassed, bullied, and cool kids wouldn’t let you play in their reindeer games. Allowing a parent and child control of their educational dollars in these circumstances always made sense. Since many others had public school experiences far different than my own, I was largely supportive of public endeavors.
Then I got involved in public schools. I’ll always say there are many great teachers and other dedicated professionals across thousands of public schools, and it is difficult to appear to be painting with a broad brush. However, as I deepened my involvement, eventually becoming a member of our local school board, I began to ask more questions, often encountering obfuscation. I also became far more aware of the undercurrent of liberal bias in policies, curricula, and classroom activities. Imagine the palpable outrage if I suggested Scott Walker or Ron Johnson make an appearance in a school, but Democratic candidates can fill the hallways.
These approaches seem counter to the idea that parents have the ultimate say in their child’s upbringing. Parents experience the callous “we have the best interest of your child in mind.” In many districts, vital personal information about students is purposefully withheld from parents, and this is fundamentally wrong.
Few school boards offer any mechanism for interactive discussions with community members. When special projects or initiatives are considered, school personnel will seek out individuals they know will support the district, and other voices are quelled.
WILL has created a wonderful tool for a snapshot of all Wisconsin public school districts available at knowyourschoolswi.com. The information was gathered from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website, but with the DPI format it takes Indiana Jones to find it and WILL has provided a mechanism for easy reference and comparison.
Parents speaking up at school board meetings? They’ve been described as “domestic terrorists.” How sad the elites feel this way. Across Wisconsin and the nation, we’re seeing many more school board candidates among those parents fighting for better communication and involvement that has often been rebuffed.
We need new faces on school boards everywhere. We need board members who will listen to and be responsive to parents and community members, and not be beholden to special groups. Make sure your voice is heard on April 5.