Ohio Tea Party activists have set their sights on controlling local school boards around the state, and they are doing it through deceptive marketing campaigns, claiming to care about “students.” Many are following the lead of Springboro’s Kelly Kohls.
Last week we reported that Kohls, the School Board President from Springboro who tried to push Creationism and Christian Nationalisminto the curriculum of her public school district, was taking her show on the road, training Tea Party school board candidates in the Olentangy district.
Dr. Kohls (she has a PhD in Nutrition), has also been spotted recently in Westerville, where three Tea Party candidates are trying to replicate Kohl’s model – running together as a team promoting a “student’s first” agenda.
The plan, promoted on their website, calls for cutting school funding by opposing school levies, then reprioritizing spending for the remaining money. A fancy pyramid graphic shows the order in which things will be cut, starting with teacher benefits and reimbursements for things like classroom supplies.
Support services go next, and then sports, food service and busing.
Under the Tea Party plan for Westerville schools, a small number of uninsured, low-paid teachers with no support staff will be sharing a single whiteboard marker while teaching classrooms full of hungry kids. And eliminating busing and sports? That’s the real genius behind the whole plan. Walking to school is great exercise – and it doesn’t cost the school a dime for uniforms or coaches!
Back in Springboro, Kohls has recruited David Bitner and Kolton Vaughn as candidates in this year’s race for school board. Kohls will not be running for reelection this year, but she circulated petitions for both men.
Bitner and Vaughn have also received the endorsement of Sonny Thomas, head of the Springboro Tea Party.
Thomas, like many Tea Party activists around the state, has developed an interest in local school board politics. So much so that, back in July, he showed up at a school board meeting to speak in support of Kohls’ plan to invite a group headed by a white supremacist to “teach” a class on the U.S. Constitution to Springboro students and parents. Thomas spoke while holding up a confederate flag.
Thomas’s Twitter feed is mainly Tweets about Blacks being criminals and Jews lying and trying to control the world (not kidding!), but he recently managed to squeeze in a few endorsements like this one for Kohls’ protégés:
STP has proudly endorsed David Bitner and Kolton Vaughn for Springboro School Board. We feel they will be a nice match up w the remaining members to continue the excellence that has become a standard w Dr. Kelly Kohls.
Like their Westerville counterparts, Bitner and Vaughn also have awebsite on which they discuss their “Children’s First budgeting process” – a similar model to the Westerville’s that also focuses on starving districts of funding by opposing school levies and then redirecting the remaining funds to “the students.”
Make no mistake, Bitner and Vaughn and Burgess are running a marketing campaign based on a message developed by Kohls: “Student’s First”. In reality1, the message might better be named “Teachers Last” or even “Students are kind of important – but not as important as low property taxes”.
Tea Party activists want to control your local school board. And that should scare the hell out of everyone in Ohio.
Before you vote next month, we highly suggest you read fully and carefully any messaging coming from Tea Party-backed school board candidates. More importantly, please keep in mind what school board members like Kohls and her cohorts at Springboro actually did once they got into power: killing funding for schools while introducing their own religious beliefs into the curriculum.
1. Speaking of reality, headshots of Bitner and Vaughn are posted on their website, and both appear to be normal, clean-cut, upstanding citizens. Images circulating around the Internet now might give you a different idea…
Abe Zaidan has been a professional journalist and freelance writer for more than forty years. He was the Ohio correspondent for the Washington Post, as well as a political columnist at the Akron Beacon Journal.