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Education Reporter

Michele Bachmann
Michele Bachmann
Betty Peters
Betty Peters
Leah Vukmir
Leah Vukmir
Kathy Wilmot
Kathy Wilmot
Election Update
Good news for grassroots!

Grassroots activists in many states have much to celebrate following last month's mid-term elections. Pro-family candidates prevailed in a number of important races at the federal, state, and local levels, some despite tremendous odds. One David vs. Goliath effort occurred in Alabama, where Eagle Forum leader Betty Peters was elected to the State Board of Education by 1,700 votes out of more than 150,000 cast. Her opponent, Democrat Charlotte Kirkland Williams, was supported by the Alabama Education Association (AEA), the state affiliate of the NEA.

"Betty knew her real opponent was the AEA," Alabama Republican Assembly President Frank Myers stated in an editorial on Nov. 6. "The Birmingham News actually called the race one between the Eagle Forum and the AEA. The AEA-supported PACs and other liberal PACs heavily financed the Democrat candidates, while Betty had only a few thousand dollars in contributions."

Myers noted that "many friends and supporters" helped Mrs. Peters win, adding that "she had the right message" in promoting education based on proven methods and common sense.

Mrs. Peters is a self-made education expert. As conservative political pundit Diane Alden noted, "Betty is not an educational hack but an accountant who has become one of the South's most knowledgeable experts on the failures of public education and alternative plans to counter those failures."

Peters will represent both city and county public school systems in 14 counties as a member of the state board. "She will bring a breath of fresh air to the board," Myers asserted.

A similar battle for local school board seats took place in Collier County, Florida. Two Christian conservative men, parents of schoolchildren, won seats on the five-member Collier County School Board. Eagle Forum leader Alyse O'Neill reports that Dick Bruce defeated his liberal Democrat opponent, and Steve Donovan, a paramedic and firefighter with almost no money, defeated a big-spending incumbent.

"Steve's wife and children were his entire campaign staff," Mrs. O'Neill reports, "and then the Eagles came on board. Now, three of the five county school board members are in the pro-family camp."

"Before the election, incumbent board member Linda Abbott was the lone conservative," Alyse explains. "She is now in the majority."

A battle for a state school board seat is raging in Nebraska, where Eagle Forum member Kathy Wilmot is trailing in her re-election bid by just 124 votes as we go to press. Mrs. Wilmot reports that there are "conditional, provisional and a few absentee ballots yet to be counted," and that "a recount is likely."

Mrs. Wilmot has opposed federal control of the public school classroom by voting against grants and agreements for Goals 2000, School-to-Work, national assessments and national standards. "These types of federal programs have eroded local control and decision making in our schools," she says.

Her opponent, who favors "comprehensive health education" (condom instruction), is backed by Nebraska's NEA affiliate, from which her campaign received $21,000 in cash and in-kind support. The union also provided at least two phone banks, one featuring a child's voice explaining that she was "too young to vote" and urging citizens to vote for the candidate who would "fight for competitive teacher pay," etc.

During her eight-year term on the state board, Kathy Wilmot crusaded for phonics instruction and local control of public school districts. She is an ardent supporter of abstinence education and recognizes the right of parents to direct the education of their own children. Recently, she authored a resolution in support of the Pledge of Allegiance as originally written, including the words "under God." Her resolution was unanimously approved by the board. (See Education Reporter, September 2002).

Minnesotans Re-elect Michele 
Voters in Minnesota's newly redrawn 52nd District re-elected State Sen. Michele Bachmann, keeping alive their voice for traditional education and fairness in state government. Sen. Bachmann spent thousands of hours researching and exposing Minnesota's version of Goals 2000, the flawed Profile of Learning. She works with the Maple River Education Coalition to create awareness of how America's public schools are being federalized.

"Under the Profile of Learning and School-to-Work, education is no longer based on academics, but skills training," Sen. Bachmann said. She supports the North Star Standard, an initiative introduced by State Rep. Tony Keilkucki as an alternative to the Profile of Learning.

"The North Star Standard's core is academics," Sen. Bachmann explains. "It promotes individual achievement by presenting information to students in logical sequential steps, the same educational principle children have flourished under since our nation's founding."

"Professional educators would be empowered under the North Star Standard," she continues. "Their position in the classroom would be to teach facts, information and reasoning ability" instead of Goals 2000's "illogical philosophy of relativism: that children discover what they perceive could be the truth."

Sen. Bachmann's opponent, who out-spent her in the campaign, supports the Profile of Learning and was endorsed by Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union. (In 1998, the Minnesota affiliates of the NEA and AFT merged to create the new union.)

"In addition to the candidates' opposing views on the Profile of Learning, which was huge, their differences on other issues were crystal clear as well," said Ann Elliott Korn, Sen. Bachmann's campaign manager. "Michele is for smaller government and lower taxes, her opponent for big government. Michele is pro-life, her opponent pro-abortion.

"The bottom line in this election was who best represents the people of the 52nd District," she continues. "Michele won by about 9%, despite the fact that the district was redrawn and about 60% of it was new territory for her. This speaks volumes about what voters really want."

Vukmir Victorious in Wisconsin 
In neighboring Wisconsin, Assemblywoman-elect Leah Vukmir promises to bring a fresh voice to state politics. She received 89% of the vote in her newly redrawn 14th district, while her opponent, Libertarian David Comey, won just 11%.

A registered nurse and certified pediatric nurse practitioner, Mrs. Vukmir campaigned successfully on the issues of stemming the rising costs of health care, cutting state spending, lowering taxes, and promoting educational excellence, including "educational choices and options for parents and teachers."

When she decided to run for political office, Mrs. Vukmir stepped down as president of Parents Raising Educational Standards (PRESS), the organization she co-founded in 1994 with a dozen other parents concerned about the dumbing down of education. She was able to expand her work in 2000 when PRESS was adopted as a project of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), a non-profit organization established to study public policy issues.

Mrs. Vukmir has served as a WPRI Research Fellow, and contributes to the organization's publications including Wisconsin Education Update, Wisconsin Interest, and WPRI Research Reports. (Her article describing the battle against fuzzy math in Wisconsin appeared in Education Reporter, November 2001.)

Strong, Godly Candidates 
Many observers point out that the election of these godly candidates, and others like them, was a credit to the revival of grassroots Republican politics, and that pro-family leaders should continue to identify and train like-minded activists.

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