Education and politics – should they really mix? 

March 12 – When Chris Bigger was hired as the superintendent of schools in the Chambersburg Area School District, he implemented a forum where the public could attend and ask him any questions they had. 

He now plans to answer questions on the school district’s radio station.  

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “We have invited him to be on the radio station. He has said to us that he would like to go on the school district’s radio station and maybe us later, but he wanted to go on the school district’s, that the taxpayers forked over money for a radio tower, for radio licensing, for radio equipment, the FCC attorneys and the FCC license. This stuff doesn’t stop. Trust me, I run a radio station. I know exactly what the costs are for a commercial radio station. They may be just a touch lower for a private operation like this. So what Bigger is saying now is I’m going to get on the school run radio station and I’m going to answer pre-determined questions that have been submitted to me on the school run radio station. I appreciate doing some of that here. I have a very hard time thinking that that’s not a huge control measure on school-run media, and questions that are coming in beforehand. By the way, we’ve interviewed Democrats and we’ve interviewed school board members, and we’ve interviewed all sorts of people from all different walks of life. It’s not like 60 Minutes and George Stephanopoulos that you’re going to get trapped here. We just want to get some of the facts out here where people can actually hear you. No disparage to the low power FM radio station that they put together here. Also, we’d like to see some of these questions and bring all of the questions instead of the ones that in my opinion might be just a little bit cherry picked.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll noted, “School district policies in general and the governance of school districts intersect with politics all of the time. I mean, the school boards are elected officials. They run on platforms related to various things. To the extent that districts are so tied to budgeting and Department of Education policies from Harrisburg, that’s all political, so it’s very difficult to separate those things. On one hand, I understand his position of using the school asset as the radio station to do these public disseminations of information, the Q&A, but the pre-screening thing concerns me and here’s one other warning or red flag I would raise. I don’t know how those questions are being submitted. But if they’re being submitted through what I’ll call school infrastructure, I think they’re going to be subject to right to know requests. So in other words, if there’s a bunch of questions being submitted, then they never make their way to air, a citizen could file a right to know request. I want to see everything that was submitted for questioning during these days. I think the district would have to turn them over and that’s one of the pitfalls of using the school platform because it’s public. It’s going to be then subject to all sorts of right to know information.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “It’s just transparency and we’re not trying to say and Chris is a pretty open guy. I appreciate that. But that’s going to be the problem is people are going to suspect things are being screened whether they are or not. You can have a right to know. When Chris says he doesn’t want to get involved in politics, we see a lot of political slash ideological stuff creeping into the education of our children and we know parents across the country are upset about this.”

Ryan added, “When you shut down school board meetings, not here, and you’ve got the FBI involved shutting down school board meetings and then what else? Oh, all that money that travels through your unions, of course it’s political.”

Jansen continued, “You can’t get away from it. Even beyond that, education has been dragged into politics. It’s why we criticize the universities now, especially the teaching colleges. You are indoctrinating those people that are coming out to teach our children. You’ve dragged education into politics, not by us, not by us. In fact, our position is to get that out of education. We don’t want our children indoctrinated. We don’t want them pushed down a pathway. What are they being indoctrinated in? Race essentialism. Gender is a spectrum. That’s all that education has decided to get involved in in a value system, which our constitution says you can not do in public schools.”

Barkdoll said, “We agree we want it out. When we say politics and education intersect, that’s not an endorsement of that idea, but it’s simply the reality of the situation on the ground all over the country. I think it would be good if it got more separated. But that said, there’s certainly a lot of discussions that can be had about the state budget process, how that affects school districts. I mean, one could argue that political, but I don’t think that’s an out of bounds discussion for a school administrator to have because it’s inextricably tied to everything the district is doing year to year when they do their budget.”