Common Core Parent Letter: ‘Political Propaganda’ or ‘Advocacy Effort’?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Alabama State Board of Education adopted the current Alabama Standards for K-12 education in 2010. The Alabama Standards are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for math and English.

Amid all the obligatory registration and emergency contact literature sent home with students at the start of the school year, schools in the Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County School Systems also sent home a flier about Common Core Standards.

The flier titled 'Save Our Standards' was designed to inform parents about frequent Common Core myths.

webBut one Huntsville City Schools parent and PTA member has started a website he says is dedicated to 'convincing school administrators to cease the distribution of political propaganda in the classroom'.

Self proclaimed concerned parent and watchdog Anson Knowles says his website is in response to what he sees as a clear lack of ethics within the Huntsville City School System.

"The school system refuses to admit it's political," says Knowles. "They seem to think because the legislature is not in session politics doesn't exist."

Huntsville City Schools Spokesman Keith Ward explains, though, the flier would be in violation if it had endorsed a particular candidate - but he says there is no vote, no pending legislation, no political endorsement.

"Common Core was put in place a couple of years ago and all of this is being phased in and now people are, I guess, hearing that term and sometimes they hear things that may be misinformation about it and this is a way to give information so that people had a better understanding of what it's all about," explains Ward.

Knowles says he agrees with one caveat:

"The flier was totally informational and non-political until you got to the end of the flier when it explicitly asks the parents to contact their legislators."

"There may be some people who are trying to politicize it," says District 3 Huntsville City School Board Member Jennie Robinson, "but at the core it's simply an educational issue."

In one of several letters to Robinson, Knowles asked the board member if it was standard operating procedure for Huntsville City School employees to 'distribute literature urging parents to contact their state senators and representatives on issues of pending, proposed, or passed legislation.'

Robinson says she dutifully responded to each of Knowles' inquiries, replying in part:

"This is no different from when we sent out a very similar flier last year at this time asking parents to vote in favor of the 6.5 mil tax renewal. Again, the issue was specifically school related and had a direct impact on the education of our students. In both cases, the mil renewal and the common core, the issue is not partisan."

Robinson goes on to characterize the flier as an advocacy effort, not a call to political action.

Knowles maintains he has a right to request 'that my government not use my tax dollars to silence the Huntsville City School’s political opposition.'

Knowles calls the flier an abuse of power and a misuse of school system resources.

"This was a flier that was produced by the chamber of commerce and the Schools Foundation," explains Robinson, "and we were happy to share it with parents because it provides information about a state-approved standard with which our curriculum is aligned."

Knowles is urging parents to attend the Huntsville City School Board Meeting on Tuesday September 17 at 5:30PM at the Annie Merts Center, 200 White Street.

"This is one of those situations where I think if the citizens in Huntsville paid attention to what I'm saying at the school board meeting tomorrow then they would have a better understanding of why it's not appropriate for these fliers to be sent out throughout the school system's infrastructure."

Knowles even urged parents unable to attend to watch the meeting's E-TV broadcast on Comcast Channel 17 Knology and WOW! Channel 3.

Keith Ward says though the public comment portion of the school board meeting is no longer broadcast. He says when the gavel comes down on the meeting it also now signals the end of the broadcast.

Jennie Robinson who is serving her third term on the Huntsville City School Board announced last week her candidacy for Huntsville City Council’s District 3 seat currently held by John Olshefski.

In speaking with WHNT News 19 Monday, Anson Knowles spoke of potential political aspirations himself.

"If the school system doesn't do the right thing here and make an amendment to their policy handbook, I'm going to run - I don't know if I'll win for school board seat -  but I'll definitely make enough noise so they know people aren't just going to allow the school system to abuse its authority."

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