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CCSD using taxpayer resources to promote teachers union’s agenda

Updated March 22, 2019 - 9:36 am

The Clark County School District has been using taxpayer resources to advance the political agenda of the teachers union.

The Clark County Education Association wants additional education funding. It has launched an online petition to pressure politicians in Carson City. That’s normal, even if there’s a decades-long record of more funding not increasing student achievement.

What shouldn’t be normal is the district promoting that effort. Yet, on at least two occasions, the district has done exactly that.

On Dec. 6, Kelly Carque, the assistant principal at Palo Verde High School, sent an email to every parent at the school. “If you would like to support efforts to provide additional funding to our schools, please visit the following website,” her email read. The website was CCEA’s petition for more funding.

Carque even attached CCEA’s talking points and demands. The district provided Carque’s email in response to a public records request.

Ironically, the district spent years in court arguing that the work emails of teachers weren’t public information. Yet, an assistant principal is able to spam the private emails of parents to push the district’s preferred political agenda.

This wasn’t a one-off event either. On Tuesday, Culley Elementary School had the union’s propaganda on its website. It linked to the union’s petition and told parents to RSVP for an upcoming union rally.

After I asked about it, the graphic promoting the union’s political advocacy disappeared.

“This content has been removed from the website,” Kirsten Searer, the district’s chief communications officer, emailed.

She refused to say how many district schools are using district resources to advertise for the union’s cause. She also declined to share whether the district plans to take any action to stop such behavior.

This is another instance in the district’s long pattern of leveraging its taxpayer resources to advocate for more funding.

In 2012, the school district wanted voters to approve a tax hike for school construction. Every School Board member had district employees send emails encouraging parents to support the measure. District lobbyist Joyce Haldeman authorized school district employees to pick up campaign literature. The toothless Nevada Commission on Ethics found they each committed violations, but the panel barely slapped their hands.

In 2009, then-superintendent Walt Rulffes emailed teachers to highlight his opposition to the budget proposed by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons. He told them they could use district computers to email their legislators during non-contract time.

In 2003, then-Gov. Kenny Guinn was pushing what at the time was the largest tax increase in Nevada history to boost education funding. Haldeman came up with the idea of having students make Valentine’s Day cards urging politicians to support the tax hike. Students made thousands of cards pushing the district’s preferred agenda.

Through ethical means or not, the school district usually has been successful in increasing funding. If only it was as successful in increasing student achievement.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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