There were dueling school choice events in Green Bay Monday night and it appears the entire Green Bay media market (except for me) has decided it won’t tell the complete truth about one of them. Governor Scott Walker appeared at St. Thomas More Catholic School, a potential choice school, to promote the voucher proposal included in his state budget. I have seen no crowd estimate in media reports of this event.
To counter this event, the Green Bay Area School District sent out a slanted, inflammatory email so scary in its predictions for public schools if choice comes to pass that President Obama would be proud of the effort. And to get the word out, the district used it’s "Messenger" email system. This system is intended to alert parents to important information; school closings, delays, etc. Parents who volunteered their emails for this database likely didn’t do so to receive politically slanted and inaccurate scare mails from the school district, paid for by taxpayer dollars.
Yet, not one media account of last night’s school board "forum" mentions the email. It took me two attempts with the district’s PR person Amanda Brooker yesterday to learn that:
"Friday’s letter from the Board of Education regarding the factual implications to the Green Bay Area Public School District as a result of the proposed state budget was sent to 16,147 email addresses through our School Messenger system."
First, let me tell you that in Brooker’s reality the letter was factual. Others didn’t see it that way.
Several parents who emailed me were outraged that the email system would be used in this way. One media estimate says about 100 people attended the forum, most opposing vouchers. And while that’s a pretty small percentage of 16,147, their effort largely worked; they wanted to detract from Walker’s visit and media coverage in Green Bay today is split evenly between the two events.
Four TV stations, one newspaper and one radio station and none of them saw fit to let the public know of the school district’s email. No story on whether using the Messenger system with an obvious political motive raises questions of any kind. It does and I will seek to answer them in the coming days. But this gives you a taste of what school voucher proponents are facing in Green Bay, and likely any other community that might benefit from vouchers.
UPDATE At least one TV station tells me they did refer to the contents of the District's email in a live report at 5 and 6 pm.
Jerry Bader is a regionally-syndicated conservative talk show host in northern Wisconsin. You can find more from Jerry at jerrybadershow.com