Outside conservative groups bring fight over 'critical race theory' to Johnson County school board races

by  Roxie Hammill

Three candidates running for school board in the Blue Valley School District have appeared together on door hangers and campaign signs In a letter to some voters the candidates  Kaety Bowers Jim McMullen and Christine White  have said theyre running together as conservative Republicans for the normally nonpartisan school board seats

Three candidates running for school board in the Blue Valley School District have appeared together on door hangers and campaign signs. In a letter to some voters, the candidates — Kaety Bowers, Jim McMullen and Christine White — have said they're running together as "conservative Republicans" for the normally nonpartisan school board seats.

In Blue Valley and other districts, school board races that previously were tame affairs are increasingly lit up by hot-button national issues, including schools’ efforts at addressing race and diversity. 

Party politics, usually under the radar in local non-partisan elections, is coming out into the open this year as school board candidates in Johnson County make their final push for votes in the Nov. 2 election.

  • A flyer in circulation promotes the candidacy of Christine White for Blue Valley school board even though she announced last month that she is withdrawing from the race. The flyer blames “cancel culture bullies” for forcing White to withdraw, calls her opponent Gina Knapp a “radical leftist” and says voters should still select White so that a “like-minded” person can be appointed in her stead.
  • Door hangers in circulation in Blue Valley advertise White and two other candidates, Kaety Bowers and Jim McMullen, as a “slate” aimed at ensuring representation on the school board by conservative Republicans.
  • national political action committee opposed to “critical race theory” curriculum in schools recently endorsed ten candidates in the Kansas City suburbs, including the same three Blue Valley candidates, along with three in Olathe and one in the Shawnee Mission district, Brian Neilson.
  • A recent fundraiser for Neilson was recently promoted by the Johnson County GOP. The invitation for the Oct. 3 event was sent out by the party with the RSVP asked to be sent to party officials. Neilson said he didn’t coordinate with the party on planning the fundraiser but welcomed its support.

The 1776 Project PAC

The campaign against “critical race theory” has driven heated school board contests around the U.S.

Critical race theory is an academic study that examines how racism is interwoven into society. It is usually taught at college level, and the Kansas state school board says it is not taught in public schools. But so-called “critical race theory” has become a talking point among right wing politicians and media hosts and has been welcomed as a campaign issue among certain Republicans.

[Critical Race Theory is INDOCTRINATION in Markism, it has nothing to do with right wing anything. People are tired of the globalists attempt at conditioning their children for a totalitarian society. It's why they concentrate exclusively on kids because they lack the mental development and experience to recognise baloney and why the public education system must be destroyed as it cannot be reformed. Home Schooling is the only viable means of eliminating the indoctrination. - ED]

One political action group, in particular, is making it their central plank in supporting candidates for school board across the country this year.

The 1776 Project PAC, based in Shirley, N.Y., was formed in April with opposition to “critical race theory” at its heart.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, the group had raised $437,800 in the last quarter ending in September and spent roughly $297,000 for things like marketing, postage and delivery.

Two of the group’s individual donors listed on the FEC filings are from Kansas — outside of Johnson County, from Auburn and Chanute — and gave the group a combined $1,525.

On its website, the 1776 Project PAC says it is “committed to abolishing critical race theory” and sets itself up in opposition to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles that aimed to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

[Oh bullshit!. You NEVER hear of the left complaining when they take money from out of state sources to defeat some conserative candidate  The 1619 project is a phony founding of America rewriting history to suit an anti-American narrative. The founding of America ideals begins with Governor William Bradford of the Massachusetts Bay coloniy where many of our bill ot rights originated, such as no Cruels and Unusual punishment and the right to be confronted by your accusers, etc. Public education's curriculum is antithetical to freedom. The mere fact that the 'supposed' prize winning articles appeared in the New York Times, a long time leftist journal should give anyone who has a mind a clue to its motives.]

The 1776 Project PAC’s involvement in local school board races got heated pushback from Stand Up Blue Valley, a public education advocacy group, which wrote on its Facebook page last month, “Despite what this New York-based PAC wants you to believe, Critical Race Theory (CRT) is NOT being taught in Blue Valley Schools.”

“NO East-Coast PAC should have ANY say in our kids’ education and we know our members will agree,” Stand Up Blue Valley’s message continued. “So it’s our job to Get Out The Vote and send a clear message to outside special interests eyeing our School Board races: 'You are not welcome here and the Blue Valley School Board is NOT for sale.'”

[This is nothing but the free flow of ideas in the global marketplace where the best ideologies win unless they are artificially suppressed by yellow journalism and other media activists. - ED]

Endorsements and impact

The 1776 Project PAC has endorsed the three Blue Valley candidates plus Brian Neilson, who is running against Heather Ousley for a spot on the Shawnee Mission school board.

However, no contributions from the PAC were listed on any school board candidates’ Sept. 2 finance reports. The candidates endorsed in Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission said they have so far not seen any contributions from the PAC.

Candidates varied on how much of an effect the endorsement is having on their races.

Ousley said people who bring it up are usually more accusatory than inquiring. The incumbent school board member and current board president said the district has worked hard to be more welcoming and inclusive in its policies.

Neilson, her opponent, said he would have to investigate the details of the PAC.

“I don’t know what they are all about. They endorsed me without talking to me,” he told the Post. “I’ve been told campaigners and PACs should stay as far away as possible and I’m taking that advice.”

McMullen in Blue Valley said he doesn’t get asked often about what party he’s from, but acknowledges Republicans would generally agree more with his views.

“I’m a pretty outspoken conservative but the thing is you try to win over everybody. I even try to win over die-hard liberals,” he said.

People do ask about the district’s curriculum regarding issues of race and diversity, and McMullen said he takes a more nuanced approach in looking at board policies that might fall under that description.

Andrew Van Der Laan, another candidate in Blue Valley not endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC, said he hasn’t heard many questions about partisanship from voters but noticed a lot from groups and social media.

Bowers, his opponent, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the PAC but did say in an earlier interview that “honesty and integrity are important at all levels.”

Running as a ‘slate’

Meanwhile, the three Blue Valley school board candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC are also doing something unusual: running together, though one of them has announced she is dropping out of the race.

Christine White, a Johnson County pediatrician who had advocated for the easing of local COVID-19 restrictions and mask rules in schools, was one of three candidates, along with Bowers and McMullen, who have appeared together on door hangers in the district.

In an explanatory letter that accompanied the door hangers sent to some homes, the candidates pitch for voters’ support. The letter explains that the three did not know each other before the campaign, but decided to run as a “slate.”

“We would like to have three of (the seats) filled by us – conservative Republicans,” the letter said. “We will then have a much better chance to make the needed changes in our district.”

The candidates want to make sure students get an education without “unwanted ideologies being forced on them,” the letter continued.

One example they gave was “critical race theory,” which the candidates say they would like removed from being taught either “officially or unofficially.”

The letter also says the district should “get back to basics and teach reading using phonics, not with sight words.” It also says the candidates want to “improve academic excellence” and lower class sizes.

The letter cites the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion as the umbrella under which critical race theory exists. In particular, it mentioned the district’s strategic priorities and professional development.

Like many districts in recent years, Blue Valley has been accelerating its efforts at diversity, equity and inclusion.

[Nonsense. Diversity, equity and inclusion are ALL social justice themes with no place in a good education system. This is why students have such low reading skills, can't write a simple sentence with subject, verb and object or do simple math. - ED}.

A district-wide committee made up of staff, students and community members has recommended a number of things, including the hiring a district diversity leader, establishing a system for reporting and responding to incidents and establishing diversity and inclusion groups at every school.

[How stupid is this! The system for 'reporting incidents' is a euphenisism for the elimination of due process and confronting one's accuser(s) to prove the charges being made. Without that you have nothing but mob rule. Why aren't the fundamentals of the American judicial system and government being taught? - ED]

McMullen said in an email the flyer was created in June or July with three candidates, then redone with just himself and Bowers when White pulled out.

There are three seats up for contention on the Blue Valley school board this November.

Van Der Laan and Bowers are competing for the seat currently held by board vice president Michele Benjamin.

Knapp is running for the seat being vacated by Stacy Obringer-Varhall, with White’s name also appearing on the ballot, though White has said she is not running any longer.

And McMullen is vying with Lindsay Weiss for the seat being vacated by Mike Seitz.

Transparency cracks

In addition, more flyers circulating for White are adding to the races’ politicization.

The origin of the mailers and who is paying for them remain a mystery.

White told the Post recently that she didn’t authorize them, but they’ve made the rounds in doors and mailboxes, along with campaign yard signs bearing White’s name that continue to crop up in the Blue Valley area.

The mailers’ text brings up the heat on the local culture war, with phrases like “cancel culture bullies” and “radical leftist.” But there’s no mention at the bottom as to who paid for it.

[One need only look ro Joe Biden and the rest of his adninistration to see what a joke 'transparency' is. Fliers are a means of getting out ideas in a free market, something the media doesn't do much less agree with. Additionally, the US Supreme court has ruled, 'money is free speech', no matter who wields it. If this were a tax referendum money would be coming from all over the country and there wouldn't be a hint of transparency or who paid for it and the media would be completely silent.. - ED]

That’s legal, say state ethics officials, because most Kansas school board races fall through a transparency crack in state campaign ethics statutes.

Campaigns for city council races in larger cities must claim ownership with names of the chair and responsible organization at the bottom of literature. That’s also true of all the bigger state and county races and even those that call for ballot questions.

The Wichita school district is the only district in the state considered large enough for its school board races to merit reporting requirements, according to state ethics laws.

But even school board campaigns in districts as large as Johnson County’s don’t have that requirement.

Such districts have different filing deadlines for financial disclosures as well. For them, reports on who donated to school board candidates fall a month after the election.

In Johnson County, candidates who did not have a primary opponent did not have to file a September financial report, meaning it will be December before the public learns who their donors were.

Even then, any potential ethics violations would be referred to local law enforcement rather than the state ethics commission.

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Source:   Outside conservative groups bring fight over 'critical race theory' to Johnson County school board races | KCUR 89.3 - NPR in Kansas City