Extremist board members can impact school Costs
For school districts, the intolerance of extremism can have a multitude of costs, we lay out a few significant and measurable costs of extremism in school boards here.
Legal expenses: when controversial or illegal actions are taken by board members, the school incurs legal expenses to defend against the lawsuits and investigations. Court fees, insurance company’s higher premiums, settlements and the hours and hours of employee’s time spent in depositions and defense takes away from the true work of the district. In July 2023, the Cincinnati Enquirer estimated the district had spent around $500,000, nearly $75 per student, compared with CPS - a district with three times the number of students, spending $33 per student. Insurance covers most of this, but premiums will suffer - if the aggressive and exclusionary actions were never taken, we would not be dealing with lawsuits.
Staff turnover: Extremist board members may create a hostile or divisive environment within the school, leading to increased staff turnover. This turnover can result in recruitment and training costs for new staff members as well as potential disruptions to the learning environment. We’ve seen first-hand how this has impacted Forest Hills; where the divisive environment has already seen an increased number of retirements and turnover. The resignation of Superintendent Scot Prebles led to a search, which required the board to offer the highest administrator salary Forest Hills has ever paid to onboard Larry Hook, despite community sentiment preferring a different candidate. Prebles earned just under $170,000 annually, Hook’s salary reportedly exceeds $180,000; only board member Leslie Rasmussen objected to the increased spending, see video here.
Decreased funding opportunities: Extremist board members may hold extreme views that are not aligned with the values or priorities of potential donors or fundraising organizations. This can lead to a decrease in funding opportunities for the school, limiting resources for programs, infrastructure or student support services. In September, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported State Representative Rachel Baker was denied an opportunity to collaborate for funding for the district by board president Hausfeld, a member of Moms for Liberty, a group labeled extreme by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I am shocked by the political games being played by this Board,” Baker said. “I want to bring resources to our teachers, staff and students, but I can’t do that without being allowed in the room.”During her closing remarks, Hausfeld called Baker’s comments “a lie.” Baker posted corroboration of her meeting requests on her Facebook page after the meeting.
Negative public perception: Schools with extremist board members may face negative public perception, which can impact enrollment numbers, community support and new-buyer interest in the district homes. Loss of support for the district in turn can result in reduced district revenue, budget cuts that impact the financial stability of the school and value of the homes in the district. Thankfully, the parents and supporters of our township’s most valuable asset stepped up to support the 2023 levy, but frequent feedback from voters constantly reminded volunteers that the community had significant reluctance doing so under the current board. The negative perception however can be measured by the increased number of protests by parents and students since May 2022, making local news several more times since then, most recently in September 2023. In addition, Madeira parents are now using the experience at Forest Hills as a cautionary tale for their own voters to encourage turnout in their community.
Increased security measures: If extremist board members pose a threat to the safety and well-being of students and families, additional security measures may be necessary. This can include hiring security personnel, implementing surveillance systems or conducting safety drills, all of which can incur additional costs. This year, Forest Hills hired an additional School Resource officer, and has been posting a number of police at board meetings, where incidents like the one noted in the Channel 9 video showing Vicky Misleh, occurred. Parent of board member Katie Stewart who was wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” tee shirt. Stewart’s tee shirt is a Gadsden flag originally associated with freedom in the 18th century, now largely regarded to align to extremist and white supremacy groups such as the the organizers of the deadly Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, and those engaging in the insurrection of January 6th, 2021 — both widely reported as extremist-led events.
This election season, two seats are open for replacement as neither Hausfeld nor Rasmussen have chosen to run as an incumbent. The candidates each have a website, which readers and residents can access to find out where they fall along the spectrum of extremism, or reference the voter guide from a women-founded group focused on building awareness & engagement to fight anti-democratic issues in Ohio & in school districts and it’s impact on communities, Red, Wine and Blue.
Early voting has already begun, have your voice heard by or before November 7, 2023. Find out more about voting locations and eligibility at the Board of Elections website, here.
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