Opinion | Linda Harmon: A train wreck waiting to happen

The Summit School District Board of Education election is a very contentious situation that could lead to very serious consequences for our community. Unfortunately, it’s not unique to Summit County; it’s happening throughout Colorado and the United States. This movement has received funding from many wealthy conservatives, resulting in high donations for nonpartisan school board elections. Ironically, or maybe not so ironic, the candidates across Colorado have the same messaging and frequently have little or no experience with school board management.

For the first time in the history of Summit School District, a slate of candidates is running. They call themselves 4 For the Kids. If the slate wins, they will control the seven person school board and radically change what teachers can teach.

The slate members say they are concerned about the failing tests scores for the past couple of years, but thanks to COVID-19, school districts throughout Colorado are suffering from the same problem, according to a recent Colorado Public Radio report.

The slate also believes the current school board has been fiscally irresponsible. In response, candidate Chris Guarino said at the election forum, “Over 15 years, I managed over $130 million in capital improvements for this district. It’s very difficult to hear statistics that have been cherry-picked from the last couple of years, which interestingly is the amount of time most of these candidates have lived here. It’s hard to hear them cast this district in an irresponsible light. I think it’s nonsense.”

As I sat listening to the school board candidates, I was impressed by the fiscal experience and knowledge of incumbents Kate Hudnut, Lisa Webster and Johanna Kugler as well as Guarino. However, I was concerned about the 4 For the Kids candidates. All have lived in Summit County or Colorado for only a short time. As a result, they did not show any understanding of the complex nature of Colorado’s educational funding. None of them seem to have a thorough understanding of how the district’s funding is affected by the state Legislature, the TABOR amendment or how the lack of property tax increases can deplete funding. They talk a good game criticizing the current board for spending money on a strategic plan and a search firm to find a new superintendent, but both items are reasonable for an organization that operates an $89 million budget.

I believe these 4 For the Kids candidates have not openly stated their true objective. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. It is not coincidental that this slate was formed a few months ago around the time the board held its meeting to discuss adopting the equity policy. Pat Moser, Danielle Surette, Kim and Mark Langley openly talked about their disdain for the policy and critical race theory.

While the 4 For the Kids slate members say they want to support teachers, they are very outspoken about what they believe should be taught. Most notably in history and literature classes, they believe students should not learn examples of white dominance over minorities, even if that history is correct. Candidate Manuela Michaels said, “I am not for equity if, like the Summit School District’s definition is that all white students are racists and oppressors, while the others are oppressed and discriminated against.” This statement, however, cannot be found in the district’s equity policy.

It is not surprising that this same group also attended the Aug. 13 meeting that addressed critical race theory. A flyer described the event as educational and nonpartisan. However, the event had speakers voicing their opposition to critical race theory as well as Marxism, communism and the Summit School District.

Ironically, Marxists and communists control education to keep a population in order. They conveniently manipulate how history is taught. Critical race theory simply teaches the truth about U.S. history. As Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Do we really want our children to repeat the mistakes of our past?

Please help stop the train wreck by voting for experienced candidates that the teachers support and who believe in teaching history as it really happened.

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