Sunday, April 11, 2004

School board gone bad looks like they may be following orders

The Orange County school board overtaken by a Christian fundamentalist majority shows their true colors by hiring Mark Bucher:
    The board of an Orange County school district mired in a dispute over gender identification that threatens millions of dollars in funding replaced its longtime attorney.

    Three of the five board members of the Westminster School District have refused to adopt a state-mandated change to discrimination policies intended to protect transgender students, and fired attorney Dave Larson, district spokeswoman Trish Montgomery said Thursday.

    Many parents at the meeting believe trustees Judy Ahrens, Blossie Marquez-Woodcock and Helena Rutkowski voted to remove Larson because he wanted to change the district's policy.

    "We're going down this bizarre superhighway," said Jim Morey, the father of three children in the district's schools. "We just passed ridiculous and we've now hit surreal."

    State officials said nearly two-thirds of the district's funding could be removed if the board does not revise its policy to allow students who define their gender in a way that differs from their biological sex the right to pursue discrimination complaints.

    The three trustees, who oppose the policy change on moral grounds, said it would lead to disaster for students if transsexuality were recognized. Westminster is the only district in the state refusing to comply.

    Larson has been the district's attorney since 1977.

    The new attorney, Mark Bucher, questioned whether the district would have to change its policy. "Based on what I have seen, I am having a hard time understanding what law is being broken," he said.

    The district, about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, serves 10,000 elementary and middle school students. More than $40 million of its $68 million budget comes from state and federal sources.

    The board's stance angered many in the community. Teachers picketed last week's board meeting, numerous parents signed petitions to recall two of the three board members and a state senator proposed the district be taken over by the California Department of Education.

    "Students whose gender traits don't conform to stereotypes are being sent a clear signal: Hide, because you won't be protected here," said Ramona Ripston of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

    "And all students have, in essence, been told by the board, 'Your education and your future are worth less to us than our moral posturing.'"
Mark Bucher is the cofounder of Education Alliance, a pro-voucher group. According to Mother Jones:
    The 'three guys' Norquist refers to, Jim Righeimer, Frank Ury, and Mark Bucher, are founders of an Orange County pro-school-voucher group called the Education Alliance, which focuses on electing conservative Christians to local school board positions. The alliance has received the majority of its funding from Howard Ahmanson, a wealthy businessman who reportedly funnels millions to radical-right groups and is linked to the fundamentalist Colorado-based Focus on the Family. Across the country, voucher advocates (who seek to use taxpayer money to enable parents to send their children to private schools) have been fighting a long-running battle against teachers' unions, including the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers.
    Five years ago, Righeimer, Ury, and Bucher backed Proposition 174, an initiative that would have allowed the use of school vouchers in California, but were soundly defeated by opposition forces led by the NEA. 'It lost big,' Bucher admits. Angered by the unions' ability to mobilize resources, and inspired by Proposition 134, the Fair Campaign Practices Act, a similar but less ambitious measure that passed in Washington state in 1992, Bucher and his allies began making plans to take the Paycheck Protection idea to voters in California. "
The orders are contained in this article describing the Christian reconstructionist manifesto:
    Unsurprisingly, Reconstructionists seek to abolish public schools, which they see as a critical component in the promotion of a secular world view. It is this secular world view with which they declare themselves to be at war. "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of the public schools," writes Gary North, "there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic."

    Among the top Reconstructionists in education politics is Robert Thoburn of Fairfax Christian School in Fairfax, Virginia. Thoburn advocates that Christians run for school board, while keeping their own children out of public schools. "Your goal" (once on the board), he declares, "must be to sink the ship." While not every conservative Christian who runs for school board shares this goal, those who do will, as Thoburn advises, probably keep it to themselves. Thoburn's book, The Children Trap, is a widely used sourcebook for Christian Right attacks on public education.
Tomorrow, Monday, is the deadline placed by the state to comply to state law else state funding will be revoked. Looks like it'll be a very interesting week in Westminster.