This week it was reported in the St. Petersburg Times that the Republican party is donating $50,000 to three school board candidates with Republican leanings including $10,000 to Carl Neumann who is running against my father and just entered the campaign two weeks ago.
In 1998, Floridians approved a Constitutional Amendment to make school board elections non-partisan.
In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.
The spirit of the law was for matters concerning education to transcend partisan politics.
Not according to Republican Party chairman Tony DiMatteo:
In an interview, party chairman Tony DiMatteo said "taking back the School Board" was one of his goals when he was elected to lead the Pinellas GOP in December 2004.
Now, while the races themselves are non-partisan, candidates are certainly allowed to refer to their membership or activity within a political organization and the law does not prohibit polictical parties from donating to a campaign, but as a St. Peterburg Times Editorial points out:
If political parties can dump $50,000 into low-budget races in which all other contributions are limited to $500, then the parties will hijack nonpartisan school elections. That's not what voters intended, and lawmakers shouldn't allow it.
Pinellas is a school district that faces a glaring racial achievement gap, a ponderous student choice assignment plan and declining state aid, and it doesn't need politicos trying to dictate the solutions.
My father announced on his campaign site today:
Elections for School Board members and judges are intended to be Nonpartisan. Legally all that means is that there are no separate Primary elections in which voters get to chose a Democrat and a Republican to face each other in a General election. My campaign has always been Nonpartisan and Bi-partisan, It will continue to be so. All of my actions as a School Board member will be Nonpartisan and in the best interest of first students, then parents, and lastly tax payers and no one else.
I added the emphasis to that last part. My father wants to put the interests of the students first. He has pledged to do so in a way that isn't beholden to partisan interests.
His opponent is Carl Neumann.
Neumann was an insurance agent for 20 years before becoming a real estate agent. He earned an associate's degree in hotel and food service from Penn State University. He taught continuing education at St. Petersburg College and served on the board of directors for Heritage private schools, a homeschool group.
He now has $10,000 from the Republican Party plus thousands more to take advantage of the party's direct mail apparatus. This is not people-powered politics.
I'm hoping that the netroots can help even the playing field. My father is playing by the rules and will keep his pledge to be non-partisan/bi-partisan. I, his daughter, am a proud liberal who wants her Dad to have a fighting chance. I thought in a school board election he would be able to win or lose on the merits of his campaign. However, it seems the political money machine is just as powerful in a local election as it is at the state and national level.
So, I'm asking my fellow Kossacks to please donate to my Dad's campaign - even if you can only spare $5 every little bit will help.
Thanks for your time.