Ohio Tea Party activists have set their sights on controlling local school boards around the state, and they are doing it through deceptive marketing campaigns, claiming to care about “students.”   Many are following the lead of Springboro’s Kelly Kohls.

Last week we reported that Kohls, the School Board President from Springboro who tried to push Creationism and Christian Nationalism into the curriculum of her public school district, was taking her show on the road, training Tea Party school board candidates in the Olentangy district.

Dr. Kohls (she has a PhD in Nutrition), has also been spotted recently in Westerville, where three Tea Party candidates are trying to replicate Kohl’s model – running together as a team promoting a “student’s first” agenda.

The ticket is headed up by Westerville Tea Party director Jim Burgess, one of the leaders of an effort to overturn the Westerville school levy passed by voters last year.   


The plan, promoted on their website, calls for cutting school funding by opposing school levies, then reprioritizing spending for the remaining money.    A fancy pyramid graphic shows the order in which things will be cut, starting with teacher benefits and reimbursements for things like classroom supplies.

Support services go next, and then sports, food service and busing.

Under the Tea Party plan for Westerville schools, a small number of uninsured, low-paid teachers with no support staff will be sharing a single whiteboard marker while teaching classrooms full of hungry kids.   And eliminating busing and sports?  That’s the real genius behind the whole plan.  Walking to school is great exercise – and it doesn’t cost the school a dime for uniforms or coaches!

Back in Springboro, Kohls has recruited David Bitner and Kolton Vaughn as candidates in this year’s race for school board.   Kohls will not be running for reelection this year, but she circulated petitions for both men.

Bitner and Vaughn have also received the endorsement of Sonny Thomas, head of the Springboro Tea Party.  

Thomas, like many Tea Party activists around the state, has developed an interest in local school board politics.   So much so that, back in July, he showed up at a school board meeting to speak in support of Kohls’ plan to invite a group headed by a white supremacist to “teach” a class on the U.S. Constitution to Springboro students and parents.   Thomas spoke while holding up a confederate flag.

Thomas’s Twitter feed is mainly Tweets about Blacks being criminals and Jews lying and trying to control the world (not kidding!), but he recently managed to squeeze in a few endorsements like this one for Kohls’ protégés:

STP has proudly endorsed David Bitner and Kolton Vaughn for Springboro School Board. We feel they will be a nice match up w the remaining members to continue the excellence that has become a standard w Dr. Kelly Kohls.

Like their Westerville counterparts, Bitner and Vaughn also have a website on which they discuss their “Children’s First budgeting process” – a similar model to the Westerville’s that also focuses on starving districts of funding by opposing school levies and then redirecting the remaining funds to “the students.”

Make no mistake, Bitner and Vaughn and Burgess are running a marketing campaign based on a message developed by Kohls: “Student’s First”.   In reality1, the message might better be named “Teachers Last” or  even “Students are kind of important – but not as important as low property taxes”.

Tea Party activists want to control your local school board.  And that should scare the hell out of everyone in Ohio.

Before you vote next month, we highly suggest you read fully and carefully any messaging coming from Tea Party-backed school board candidates.   More importantly, please keep in mind what school board members like Kohls and her cohorts at Springboro actually did once they got into power: killing funding for schools while introducing their own religious beliefs into the curriculum.


1.  Speaking of reality, headshots of Bitner and Vaughn are posted on their website, and both appear to be normal, clean-cut, upstanding citizens.   Images circulating around the Internet now might give you a different idea…




Also Bitner



  • Mark

    This cannot go on. These tea party people are destroying working class America. They’ve already taken away our right to good jobs, now they want to take away my kid’s right to good education.

  • stryx

    “Children’s First budgeting process”

    When I read this, I thought it was a game from Baby Einstein.

  • Natalie

    These people are crazy! I don’t know how the normal people in Springboro can stand this.

  • carrieee4

    Really and people go for this crap? If I found out they were coming around my towns school I would very loudly call them all out for what they are!

  • JackPumpkin

    There’s a teabagger running for school board in Toledo: Tina Henold. It’s important to keep her off the board, too.

  • Dennis Mummert

    Mark, I apologize in advance. The first few sentences kind of addressed you, but education pushes my hot-buttons and I wandered off-topic (which I do).

    You’re painting with a broad brush. Also confusing democratic greed with stark reality. What those people in Springboro are doing is dead wrong, and their activities do not qualify as tea party members. Why this particular political party got dragged into it is in part due to shoddy reporting – or, rather, the ‘two fingers in the nostril reporting’, the kind America laps up every day. They probably belong. No – it isn’t an agenda of the Tea Party, stated or otherwise, to kill the school system, take your jobs, or break down the infrastructure. I don’t know whether to scream or cry about the fact that people actually believe everything they read on the internet – and worse, everything the talking heads tell them.

    People are too lazy to do research. I have to put up with Obama, who has NO educational policy, and suffer the consequences of Bush’s ‘No child left behind’ bull, and rage against school boards who are too stupid to stand up for quality education – not the least of which is allowing Creationism to be mentioned in school. And certainly not the least is permitting even one student to graduate high school with less than a 12th grade education.

  • LilacRose711

    FYI…Ohio republican governor John Kasich lives in Westerville instead of the official governor’s mansion in Bexley.

  • ohiojim

    Natalie, there aren’t many normal people left here. Remember, this is where Shannon Jones lives. 🙁

  • ohiojim

    Springboro/Clearcreek twp is a hotbed of craziness. We voted a fire levy down causing large areas of the twp to go uncovered some days. Now we have these teanuts to contend with. This is also the home of Shannon Jones so that should tell you something about the mentality around here.

  • TLS

    Glad that there is at least you and me Natalie! I’d think about moving, but with the schools going down the toilet, property value and real estate demand goes with it!

  • buckeyewill

    Just as I expected : Tea Party is a vehicle for Confederate propaganda.

    Not surprised if they spit on the graves of those who were Abolitionist

  • Guy Valkyrie

    Sonny Thomas does not represent the Tea Party, no matter how much you want him to.

  • BH74923

    As a teacher in one of these districts, I am very nervous that voters are falling for this, and am very afraid of what will happen to our proud and excellent district if they are elected.

  • LilacRose711

    ALL three of these Tea Baggers LOST in the Westerville School Board Election!!! =-)

  • Gene

    The Tea Party are nothing more than the pissed -off anti- government hating left-overs who do not want to be part of the Democratic and Republican parties. They want and have their own agenda and it is nothing more than a more radicalized form of the conservatism we hear put out by the anti-government haters on Fox Broadcasting owned by a foreigner who if their anti-government hatred is exposed or questioned, they claim it is entertainment.
    But this entertainment promised the Republicans the last two Presidential elections and or the Senate and House or both so they could run our government as a dictatorship.
    And they are so-pissed off that they are taking their anger and hatred out on anyone and everything they can to get into power.

  • Gene

    Dear Lilac Rose:
    When G. W. Bush was President, it was said that he spent so much time in his ranch in Texas that they had to improve it with security and other things because , I guess of the FBI agents having to live there , eat , etc. etc. and he passed a law allowing life-time protection for ex-Presidents , so another benefit to themselves.
    So, if John Kasich is living in his father’s home instead of the Governor’s mansion as was said in an article, I read , I guess one could assume that we are also paying money from the State budget for some improvements to his father’s home. He is a con artist enjoying our trust in our fellow man to look out for all of us, but instead looking out for his own selfishness and ambitions.

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