OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. –”Dark money” being used to shield political donors, bashing school choice, linking perceived societal wrongs to the “Koch Brothers” – that’s the usual buzz of many left-wing websites.
But controversial posts about those topics and more are also the norm for one Michigan school district.
Articles about many of the usual liberal complaints fill the Twitter feed of Oakland Schools, the intermediate school district for Oakland County. It recently retweeted a post titled “Corporate America May Have the Answer for Dark Money Transparency.”
While most school district Twitter accounts promote upcoming school events or awards won by staff, Oakland Schools has a liberal viewpoint in many of its tweets and retweets.
It links to liberal news sites such as Salon, Huffington Post as well as the far-left Eclectablog and other liberal bloggers.
For example, on July 24 the Oakland Schools Twitter feed linked to a video with the description, “Video NAILS IT: Are #Charter Schools Today’s Version of Sub Prime Mortgages.” In the video, a man claimed charter schools are an investment opportunity to the 1-percent.
On July 29, Oakland School tweeted four times, “The Koch Bro’s slow creep into America’s schools” with a link to a Huffington Post article.
The Oakland Schools also linked to a blogger who wrote: “To hear hedge fund managers and investors talk, one would believe that the only reason why we don’t have a thriving education market made up of private corporations right now is either because people in the past were just stupid or the Communists among us have secretly sabotaged those efforts.”
While many public educators link to such stories on their private Twitter accounts, Oakland Schools is using the district’s official Twitter account to advance an ideology.
“Oakland Schools has an active Twitter account, managed by the Communication Services Department,” said Danelle Gittus, Oakland Schools’ spokeswoman, in an email. “We share articles and thoughts about curriculum, teaching strategies, events, parent and student resources, and news about current events and hot topics involving education. As an intermediate school district, we believe that an essential element of our mission is to educate the public about issues that impact public education. This is an education function, and not a political function. The fact that opinions may be shared as to whether certain proposals or trends positively or negatively impact public education is part and parcel of this education function. We would not be doing our job of educating the public if we did not report information and point out the problems or opportunities provided by such information. We view this education function as critically important as we work together with parents and the community to provide the best education possible for our children.”
Eric Doster, general legal counsel for the Michigan Republican Party, said this wasn’t a violation of the state’s campaign finance act.
“It is certainly not what public resources should be used for,” Doster said. “Schools should use their resources for educating our kids, not reviewing and forwarding propaganda.”
Mike Reno, a former school board member with a district in Oakland County, said it was not appropriate.
“They will argue that they are posting information that is ‘pro public education,’” Reno said. “However, it is subjective. Who are they to say? Some of us think that eliminating the influence of the MEA is pro-kids and pro-public education. Would the ISD superintendent permit tweets about that? If the answer is ‘No’, then they should not be tweeting anyone’s opinion.”
Daniel Frazier is the superintendent of the Litchfield Independent School District 465 in Minnesota. He has written about the use of social media by public school districts for the American Association of School Administrators.
He said that public schools need to utilize modern communication tools to tell their stories to the public.
“I believe public schools should be apolitical; therefore, no, I don’t think public schools should be using their social media accounts to send forth politically biased messages,” Frazier said.
A Capitol Confidential investigation last year revealed how Oakland Schools helped operate a pass-through for taxpayer-funded political lobbying.
Authored by Tom Gantert