Over the past few years, conservative activists have been quietly and diligently working to take control of local and state school boards around the country. Ohio is no exception. John Kasich used his position as Governor to pack Ohio’s State Board of Education with social conservatives and pro-charter activists. Board member Cathye Smith Flory, for example, believes all kids in public schools should be taught about creationism. Debe Terhar, the outgoing board president, compared Obama to Hitler on her Facebook page. And Mark Smith, who also serves as president of Ohio Christian University, claimed Ohio-born novelist Toni Morrison should be banned for her “socialist-communist agenda” and went on a rant about the evils of “Equality” and the benefits of “traditional marriage” at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom coalition conference.
This year’s ballot contains four more extremists who are running to join or keep their seats on the board…
Incumbent Kathleen McGervey is “is an engineer for the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority” and a “strong advocate for school choice — in particular state support of private schools ,” according to the TheNewsOutlet.org. She also supported a proposal to require a “‘critical analysis’ of the theory of evolution, an idea backed by those who believed in creationism.” Ms. McGervey is endorsed by the executive director of Cleveland Right to Life and the anti-public school group Ohioans for Educational Freedom. According to her Facebook page, she was also endorsed by the Lorain County Tea Party in 2010. Education experience? She was once a math tutor.
Mary Pritchard has been endorsed by Ohio Christian Alliance – an extreme right-wing group focused on protecting Ohioans from evils like human-animal hybrids, expanded voting hours and radical homosexual groups like Equality Ohio. On her Cincinnati Right to Life questionnaire she vowed to fight against LGBT student groups in public schools, promised to prevent boys and girls from playing sports together and pledged to forbid school counselors from discussing the topic of abortion with students. Pritchard works for the Butler County Educational Services Agency and homeschools her own kids.
Of all the candidates running for State Board of Education this year, Zac Haines in the 4th District is probably the worst. Haines is running for the seat Debe Terhar is leaving, and has the endorsement of Terhar and nearly every other wacko conservative politician and group you can name. Haines was endorsed by Rand Paul, SB5’s Shannon Jones, and the anti-LGBT, anti-woman group Citizens for Community Values. Like Pritchard, Haines told Cincy Right to Life that he also supports anti-LGBT restrictions in public schools.
Haines has no experience working in education, but his campaign website and Facebook page promote the fact that he served as a local chapter leader of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity when he was at Miami University. He now serves as a national officer for the organization. What he doesn’t mention is that his frat was kicked off Miami’s campus in 2012 for alleged hazing violations and the frat brothers celebrated the event by throwing a big drunken party and attacking fraternity and university officials with offensive and sexually explicit Tweets.
Haines is running against Pat Bruns, a retired educator with 30 years experience.
Sarah Fowler currently represents district 7. According to the ABJ, she is a 25 year old “home-schooled former egg farmer from rural Ashtabula County and has had no formal relationship with organized, publicly funded education.” Ms. Fowler does not have a college degree and she still lives at home with her parents. She believes the government is only required to provide kids with a “basic education” aka “learning to read, write and do basic arithmetic.” Like her fellow social conservative cohorts on the board, Fowler has publicly claimed that “there are gay-rights agendas and Marxist agendas at work in the public schools.”
Michael Charney is running to unseat Fowler. Charney is a retired educator with extensive education experience including 30 years of teaching secondary school Social Studies.
As a reminder, Ohio school board elections are technically “non-partisan” so you won’t be seeing a D or R next to any of the candidates’ names. And in some cases, there may be many people running for the same seat. So it’s important to know as much about the candidates as possible, and to go into the voting booth ready to elect school board members who won’t fight to introduce religion into the curriculum, ban books, discriminate against students based on gender or sexual orientation, or destroy public education funding in the name of so-called “education reform.”
For some suggestions from Greg on non-extremist, pro-education candidates, you can check out his post from yesterday.