Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Toledo schools force students to do levy campaign work in class

UPDATE: According to two teachers who called in to Eye On Toledo tonight (podcast to be linked as soon as it's posted), the use of children to fill out the postcards was not a system-wide or even a school-wide directive. Both teachers said that the postcards, pre-addressed to the parent/guardian of...with their student's name on them, were left in their mailboxes and that they were asked to write a note and then return them for mailing out to the parents.

One teacher admitted it was possible that some of the teachers used the postcards in class, but not all teachers did so. The other teacher said she was uncomfortable with what was being asked of her, so she just wrote a note to 'remember to vote on November 4th.'

ORIGINAL POST:

My neighbor Ed brought a postcard to me last night because he was so irate over what it was.

At first, it appeared innocuous - addressed to the parents of ... with his son's name and address on the front. It was a "Vote for Issues 34 & 35" mailing, advocating a yes vote on Toledo Public Schools' two ballot issues, one a renewal of an existing levy and the other a new bond issue for school construction.

Then he noticed that the handwriting for the return address was in his son's. When he turned it over, he found a handwritten message from his son:

"Dear Mom or Dad,

Please vote for the levy. Issue 34 and 35 are important to TPS and our school."

Ed, of course, sat down with his son in order to understand what this was all about.

His son said this was supposed to be a 'how to write a letter' lesson, though he explained that they weren't doing anything similar in any of their previous lessons. Ed said he checked with other parents at the school and found out that every class did this little exercise, with kindergarten classes being asked to draw pictures on the post cards.

Each postcard cost $.27 to mail and was paid for by a postage meter (although since the meter was printed in red, it doesn't show up on the image below). I called the main Post Office Bulk Mail office to see who the meter number was registered to. It was the Toledo Public Schools meter number.

According to the disclaimer on the post card, it was paid for by "the Committee for Schools, Angela Jordan, Treasurer" - and was "Printed by union labor at no cost to the taxpayers."

So I called Angela Jordan, who is the assistant to TPS Superintendent John Foley, and asked her about this.

She explained that the TPS print shop creates the post card and then issues her a bill for the work. As the treasurer, she pays the bill. She couldn't answer other questions about design or usage because she's just the treasurer, which is understandable.

So here we have an internal department of TPS using TPS equipment to produce a campaign piece and distributing it to local elementary schools. Teachers then have the kids, as part of a class assignment, copy what they've written on the board about supporting the ballot issues, and then mail out the postcards using the TPS bulk mailing permit.

Whether or not the campaign committee reimburses for the costs is not the major point, although I would hope that they wouldn't be using school resources for their campaigning.

What is important is that Toledo Public Schools forced elementary school children to participate in an electioneering stunt, making it part of a classroom assignment, and shamelessly used them as a pawn in their political campaign. And, according to what my neighbor Ed reported, no parent was asked ahead of time for their permission to use their child in such a despicable manner.

Here are the contact numbers - make your opinion known!

John Foley, Superintendent - 419-671-8281
Lonny Rivera, Chief of Staff - 419-671-8362
Jan Kilbride, Chief Academic Officer - 419-671-8422
Carol Thomas, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent for Human Resources - 419-671-8231
Dan Romano, Treasurer - 419-671-8245
Main Switchboard - 419-671-8200

Below are the scanned images of the postcard - unfortunately, the pencil writing on the back of the card did not show up very well:


16 comments:

steveegg said...

I do believe that is actionable by the local DA (or at least it is actionable in Wisconsin). Of course, since it's Toledo, I doubt the DA will take any action.

DeeDee Liedel said...

OMG! Does this mean any group that is opposed to the levy (or any levy for that matter) can use the school's print shop and just have them send a bill? I like that idea.

I'm sure the calculation of what it cost included paper, ink and equipment time, as well employee cost (including benefits) and overhead (such as electricity, insurance, building space, etc). If it wasn't full cost accounting, it was subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Robin said...

Schools have always done that. I remember filling out post cards like that, when I went to school (in the suburbs) back in the dark ages.

Maggie Thurber said...

Robin - we never did that sort of thing when I was in school...it wasn't allowed.

Ben said...

unreal.

Stacey said...

My kids never did a postcard, but they brought home literature on the last levy and they had stickers, too.

Maggie Thurber said...

Stacey - I've heard of literature being sent home with kids...especially after the schools holds a rally to kick off the campaign ... but that's a relatively recent ocurrence.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

The Postcards

The TPS Print Shop

The Teacher's Time

The Student's (IMHO) wasted time

Forced time


I could go on, but this issue deserves full investigation and the fullest prosecution possible, for all parties behind this blatant misuse of educational resources for purely political purposes.

This is criminal on so many levels and should be treated accordingly.

And, heads, at the highest levels, should roll, over this...

Vote NO on any/all school levies, until the Toledo Bd of Ed and TPS begin teaching our children the basics, not politics, and partisan politics at that.

Partisan meaning Democrat/Union Politics.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

Further:

Kids/students should NEVER be involved in even transporting propaganda.

If somebody wants this sort of stuff sent to your house, they should get it done without administration, employee, or student involvement.

And, they should get their own print shop and postage meters too.

Now if admins and employees want to volunteer off premises and on their own time, now that's a different matter....

Antipelagian said...

If TPS kids are busy writing these letters...one has to wonder:
Who's walking Scout?

gordon gekko said...

This is the kind of thing that keps us going in the pubic skools.

sinserly

Illiteracy

The A-Hole Lawyer said...

I have sat all football season and listened to the announcer remind us as parents and supporters of the schools and athletic teams that we should remember to go vote, and to vote yes on our "permanent capital improvements" levy. Now, at a school function I am not surprised nor offended at the announcement.

But if my kids came home with a school "assignment" supporting any tax, I would be furious. My kids go to a great public school. But, I will vote no on the levy because I know that the success of the district is based on dedication of students, teachers and parents; the expectation of high standards by students, and involvement by parents in the school - NOT - the dollars spent per kid.

This is just another example of why we must be diligent in exploring what our kids are studying and fighting - when necessary - the indoctrination they receive at even the best public and private schools, whether it be on taxes, global climate change, socialism, etc.

TAHL

Brian said...

Maggie,

This must be common practice. The same thing was done in Oregon Public Schools last year at Clay High School. I and many other parents complained and were assured that our children could write anti-levy letters if they wanted to. However, that is not how the assignment read.

This is evidence of the teachers' union trying to establish their primacy over our children.

Lisa Renee said...

It doesn't surprise me, recently my youngest daughter who is in an honors social science class was instructed to write a piece on which presidential candidate she would support. The way the project was set up it was clear it was meant to have it be on one of the two main parties.

She rebelled against this (can't imagine where she gets that from) and found a way to write about the Green Party as her way of demonstrating a protest vote. What was disturbing was that none of her classmates knew that there were even more than Obama and McCain running for president and the reality was this was an attempt to gage how parents were voting since very few 8th graders are politically involved at the level mine is and it was clear that few parents or our educational system is interested in educating our children about the real process and instead is indoctrinating them into not only the two party system but a blind obedience to levies.

Robin is correct as I remember Springfield doing this at one point in time and some of us made it clear we did not appreciate it, that we felt our children were being used. I'm not sure if they still do this or not.

KraZyKaT said...

I also question the cost of bussing the kids for campaigning door-to-door in support of the levies on a Saturday. I know this has happened in the past. Not sure about this campaign.

Carol said...

This is the epitome of bureaucratic arrogance.

TPS is abusing its 'power' to 'encourage' the kids to participate in this, yet again, cause for the children.

A solid education is paramount to success at any level, but to use the students to carry the message and subliminally 'encourage' the parents to support the levies ...

Well, it's arrogant.

BUT - it IS for the kids, ya know. *sarcasm off*

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