Stillwater: 4-3 Split On The School Board Acknowledged By Gazette
And that represents quite a breakthrough for Stillwater's oldest daily newspaper.
Today's edition (Friday, January 6th, 2006) bears the headline:
"School Board starts 2006 maintaining 4-3 Split"
As regular readers of the Gazette and this blog know, I was fired from the Gazette a few days after I ran a column that acknowledged the existence of a four-to-three split on the school board. Now, months later, the Gazette is willing to acknowledge that reality on its front page: our local school board is split into two opposing factions that regularly vote against each other, and this has been the case for some time.
But the Gazette is not yet ready to tell its readers all about these factions and what they stand for. In "the column that got me fired", I identified four members of the board as "conservatives"--George Thole, Chris Kunze, Nancy Hoffman, and "Choc" Junker. I branded them "conservatives" because I (and many others) believe that these School Board members sympathize with the conservative agenda promoted by this state's GOP and the Minnesota Taxpayer's League. I believe that they secretly sympathize with the cuts to local funding that emanate from Republican St. Paul, and that their sympathy contributes to our local property tax hikes (more than 8% per cent, this year alone, and that's not counting the school levy.)
One example of board members stealth conservatism: School Board member Chris Kunze's web page gives us a peek into his conservative worldview, which never seems to rate a mention in the Gazette or the Courier. A July 2004 entry by Kunze posts a piece by conservative columnist Cal Thomas called "Money Plus Schools Does Not Equal Achievement". Thomas' article is a bitter denunciation of federal funding for public schools. Thomas' arguments are supplied by the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank. Kunze presents this article with approval--and prefaces it with a thank you to Nancy Hoffman for recommending it to him.
Interested readers will find many other examples of Mr. Kunze's right-wing views on education. Be sure you read the article he posts that discusses charging families extra for public school bus transportation. Note his comments on the plan("Do we need to consider this? How much will it save the District? How much will it cost the District to administer? IT is something to look into.") Also note that Kunze was considering this policy in June of 2004--long before his School Board actually did cut school bus transportation in our district and slapped extra fees on local families who required school bus service. But remember--if you want to read up on Kunze's mindset, you had better hurry to the web page before he takes these articles down. His web link to the Taxpayer's League is already inoperative.
By the way, and for the record--I have no objection to someone running for the local school board as a conservative, provided that person has the guts to tell the voters that he or she is a conservative. What I object to is "stealth" conservatism--politicians who deceive the voters in the pages of the local newspapers by pretending to be non-ideological and non-partisan, when they are anything but. If Thole, Hoffman and Kunze want to be conservatives, fine--but why not admit that to the voters? Why pretend to be something you're not?
Anyway--the charade that has been maintained in the local papers for so long is officially over: it is now acknowledged our local school board elections are not non-partisan, non-ideological, as the candidates often claim. The School Board is divided into factions and is currently dominated by a faction that votes all leading offices on the board to its own members. We saw it again last night where the "gang of four" appointed themselves to all the key posts on the Board, excluding the other three members--despite the fact that some of those other members received far more votes at the last election.
Voters have been talking about the four-three split on the Board for a long time. Finally coming around to admitting its existence is a huge step forward for the Gazette. Let's hope they follow up with more of the same sort of realistic reporting in the months to come.