By Ed Steele |
On January 24th, the Mesa Public School Board chose to maintain a relationship with and send district funds to the National School Board Association (NSBA). They might as well have also given parents the middle finger.
In September 2021, the NSBA sent a letter to the Biden administration requesting that it deploy the force of the federal government to put down angry parents speaking out at school board meetings. The letter called on the administration to use resources from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center, FBI National Security Branch, and FBI Counterterrorism Division. The letter equates parents speaking out at school board meetings with domestic terrorists! Immediately and dutifully, the DOJ responded by sending out a directive to FBI field offices to create a partnership with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement to address the problem.
A full 5 months later, the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) came to the correct conclusion—that the NSBA does not represent the values it believes are necessary to advance education in the state. As a result, they sent a letter to the NSBA severing all relations with them.
Yet, one month later in March 2022, the Mesa Public School Board voted unanimously to send board member Kiana Sears to the 2022 NSBA Annual Conference. Then in September, the board again voted unanimously to send board member Sears to two additional NSBA sponsored training sessions: the Counsel of Urban Board Educators in Miami, FL and the NSBA Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. And at its latest meeting on January 24th, the board voted to approve sending board member Sears to the 2023 NSBA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL.
As a concerned Mesa taxpayer, I asked at that meeting that the vote on this item be pulled from the consent agenda. I was hoping that the board would do so to send a clear message to parents that their voice is valued and appreciated. Instead, the board voted 3-1 in favor of sending district money and board member Sears to the NSBA.
The one shining exception to this insult to parents was board member Rachel Walden. Mrs. Walden boldly voted no, keeping her campaign promise to be the voice for parents on the school board.
Mrs. Walden is one of many newly elected school board members across the state who ran for office after the COVID shutdowns—when “distance learning” gave parents a glimpse into the classroom and exposed the failures of school boards. Walden correctly stated what should be obvious, “I feel we do have an obligation to build a sense of trust with our parents. They are stakeholders in this. When we have an entity working with the government to put down the First Amendment rights of parents, then I think we would want to disassociate ourselves with that entity as much as possible.”
But Board President Marcie Hutchinson disagreed, stating, “The NSBA probably mis-stepped.” PROBABLY!?
She continued, “But anytime we make a decision, we have to weigh costs versus benefits, and I believe that the benefits that we as board members can receive, and therefore transmit to our district, far exceed the cost of an association with a group that supports public education.”
President Hutchinson seems to have completely misunderstood the “cost.” The actual cost is not “association with a group that supports education.” The cost is choosing to associate with the group that thinks concerned parents speaking out at school board meetings should be treated, by the full force of federal law enforcement, like domestic terrorists.
The Mesa Public School Board doesn’t get it, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Across the country, parents are speaking out against the questionable decisions of school boards and the resulting abysmal academic performance. And while, it is becoming increasingly obvious that governing boards are not inclined to hold themselves accountable, you can make a difference. You can have your voice heard by showing up and speaking up at board meetings. You can email board members with your concerns. And you can get involved with the election of our school board members. The future of our schools—and our children—depends on it.
Ed Steele is a husband, father, grandfather, and Mesa resident with a passion for helping the younger generation succeed in education.