The Parents for Choice in Education PAC operates on extremely large out-of-state donations from anti-public ed. organizations and individuals. They literally have no grassroots financial support in Utah. They reported over $209,000 dollars sitting in their PAC account on their August 2011 report, which is the most recent posted at the Lt. Governor's website. This money came from large donations in the election years of 2010 and 2008. (The state switched systems in 2008, and the reports showing the millions of out-of-state money received during the voucher fight in 2007 and the systematic support of pro-voucher candidates in 2004 and 2006 do not show up. I know there's some way to link to the old system. I would be grateful if anyone could post a link in the comments.)
The PCE PAC received $179,000 in 2010. $4000 was from the Conservative Caucus of Utah politicians; the other $175,000 came from two national anti-public education organzations: All Children Matter, founded by the DeVos and Walton families, and The American Federation for Children, a new group (with the same founding board as the National Alliance for school Choice) founded by the same people apparently to avoid the bad publicity from All Children Matter being fined $5.2 million for hidden illegal campaign contributions in Ohio. (It looks like PCE was one of the final recipients of All Children Matter funds before it became defunct) The AFC is apparently also closely affiliated with ALEC and its proscriptive model bills to weaken public education. In 2008, the PAC received just over $342,000. $175,000 came from All Children Matter; $164,000 came from Patrick Bryne, the Overstock.com CEO who contributed millions in 2007 to the voucher campaign and continues as one of the only 3 sponsors of Howard Stephenson's Red Meat Radio program; the other $3424 was donated by the Board Members of PCE.
PCE has poured tens of thousands into State School Board elections before, and appears to be ready to enter the fray this year again. They are looking for candidates in all districts having an election this year: 1, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15. Here is part of PCE's plea:
Dear School Choice Supporter,The whole process for State School Board elections is literally run by special interests, as a committee of industry lobbyists and then the governor get to select which candidates the public gets to vote on in this non-partisan election. This is detailed here, here (with more links to the 2008 vote), and here. (Gov. Herbert has expressed his desire for an open election, but the latest in many attempts to un-rig the elections, HB 331, appears to have had a weird provision for the primary date, increasing costs, and was killed by the House Education Committee without a hearing)
If we want to empower parents with quality school choice options, both public and private, we absolutely must recruit like-minded candidates for the State Board of Education. The innovation and reform necessary to improve our public school system will require a majority of supportive board members - something we currently do not have. This upcoming election provides us with a rare opportunity to change this!
We urge you to please consider becoming a candidate for fthe Utah State Board of Education. If, we ask you to help us recruit good candidates to run for the 9 spots up for election this year.
We need committed individuals to serve who understand how critical it is that we find solutions for an outdated public school system that will better meet the diverse learning needs of our students. 21st century innovation has the power to transform our one-size-fits-all system. The State Board of Education and the legislature have the most direct influence on our state's K-12 education. We can't expect change unless we are willing to get involved!
In 2008, there were shenanigans in my State School Board district 13, where the election winner resigned the day the election was certified because he suddenly "discovered" that he didn't live in the district, ensuring that the BYU Education professor who would have otherwise been eligible to contest the seat had no opportunity. The erstwhile winner, C. Mark Openshaw refused to answer opinion surveys and emails while campaigning, literally putting up no signs and making no campaign appearances. His family's blog said he didn't even want to win!
It appears Mr. Openshaw is running again from the state candidate website (Scroll to the bottom), and unopposed, though his paperwork is not linked like the others as of this moment. What kind of school board member was he the last 4 years? I have no idea. Maybe I would actually love his representation on the board, but I have no easy way of knowing. I saw his name mentioned one time in the paper with a lukewarm comment about the upcoming school grading system. The State School Board needs to get some sort of public vote display up on their website showing official votes of each individual on proposals. That would be positive all around and give voters better information on which to base their votes.
Two of the districts, 10 and 12, have no candidates filed today, two days before the deadline. The positive thing is that if only two candidates file for a district race, they get to completely avoid the flawed lobbyist selection board and governor narrowing. The scary thought is that some of these candidates might run unopposed. Who will sign up for an automatic State School Board seat on Thursday afternoon? We'll see how it shakes out.
PCE also encouraged supporters to run for delegates at the caucus with this comment:
The teacher's union works hard to monopolize the caucus system, ensuring their powerful stronghold and dominance over our taxpayer-funded, public school system. YOU can make sure this doesn't happen! Get involved in the legislative process and become a Delegate.After years of barely fighting off destructive voucher proposals and other bad policy, I only wish public education supporters had more "dominance" PCE. I only wish. If more teachers would run and become delegates, maybe we could get support for more legislators in Utah Valley who value public education like the silent majority does. Our "taxpayer-funded, public school system" needs to continue to serve the public, not the whims of out-of-state multi-millionaires.