It happens that if you’re troubled about the Trump administration’s education agenda you shouldn’t overlook the Salem-Keizer School Board special election May 16.
Trump is gutting the Department of Education and redirecting federal dollars from public schools to vouchers for private, religious or home schools. His Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a billionaire school choice advocate who never attended a public school, nor sent her own kids there.
His budget cuts the Education Department by $9 billion, 13.5 percent, including funds for teacher training, aid to low-income and minority students, and after-school programs. But it increases funds for school choice to $1.4 billion, adding $250 million for use of private schools, including religious schools.
With Trump’s aggressive deportation plans and anti-abortion zealotry, it’s not an agenda that helps an under-funded school district like Salem-Keizer with diverse population and high levels of low-income students.
When the April 13-26 Salem Weekly editorial endorsed three school board candidates (physician Kathleen Harder, performance auditor Sheronne Blasi, and community center director Levi Herrera-Lopez) it convincingly described their qualifications and exposed the social conservative, Republican Party DNA of their chief opponents.
Many might think it unfair for me to also throw in Trump and Devos. After all, it’s a non-partisan local race. No one is campaigning explicitly for or against their policies. But the underlying currents are there. Look deeper and it becomes more evident.
Kathy Goss, Harder’s chief opponent, has credible education credentials. But she revealed her social and fiscal conservative views when she ran for State Representative as a Republican in 2012.
Blasi’s opponent, Jonathan Baker’s call to restore “balance” to the school board reeks of Fox New’s faux “fair and balanced” tagline. Endorsements by conservative talk-show-host-turned-legislator Bill Post, and appearances on Patti Milne and Gator’s Radio Experience talk shows give away which constituency he represents.
His website statement supports school vouchers and re-posts a rant on teacher unions supporting Democrats.
Herrera-Lopez’s opponent, Jesse Lippold, another Republican Party find, didn’t live within the zone to which he seeks election at the time of filing. He and Baker both highlight Right-to-Life endorsements.
What’s Right-to-Life’s interest in school boards? How about limits on school health care programs, sex education, insurance policy coverage, or simply advancing people of “God’s calling” to restore their defined “moralities” into schools and society.
Oregon Right to Life’s website put out the call: “Perhaps the biggest impact pro-life Oregonians can have right now is through local politics, particularly school board elections. The importance of having pro-life school board members cannot be overstated if for no other reason than that they have the power to keep Planned Parenthood out of their local schools.”
If I’m being unfair to anyone it’s to those Salem Weekly endorsed. They’re not inserting Trump’s education policy into the race. I am. They are in fact highly-qualified candidates running positive, forward-looking campaigns. Were there no Trump or DeVos, they would still be the best choices.
But I can’t escape the fact Trump-DeVos now helm the federal education policy and funding apparatus. The surest way to counteract their impact at the local level is to elect school board members who aren’t likely to advance, harbor, or comply with that agenda.
There are many other reasons to support them, but marking your ballot for Kathleen Harder, Sheronne Blasi, and Levi Herrera-Lopez is the best way to make sure the Trump education agenda doesn’t creep into the Salem-Keizer school district.