The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Split board vote backs use of U-46 anthologies
By Seth Hancock
Taxpayer dollars are going to pay for factually inaccurate and politically biased resources according to School District U-46 Board of Education member Jeanette Ward.
The board voted by a 5-2 vote, Ward and Cody Holt voting no, for McGraw-Hill’s StudySync resource to be used as anthologies for 11th and 12th grade classes at a cost of $455,525 at its meeting on Monday, June 20. Last year the board approved StudySync with a 4-3 vote, Phil Costello joining Holt’s and Ward’s opposition, for use in grades 6-10.
Last July, Ward noted a litany of examples of one-sided lessons in the resource, and she found the same bias again this year. She listed several examples again, none of which were refuted by supporters of the resource, and cited more in a blog post.
“I have reviewed this resource again and again [and] come to the same conclusion,” Ward said. “There are pervasive leftist views and factual inaccuracies presented regarding the meaning of liberty and our country’s founding documents, government entitlements, gender differences, socialism, leftist social causes, evolution and global warming.”
Board member Sue Kerr said she supported the resource because of the “enthusiasm teachers showed” for it and asked Ward to present other options.
“I also agree we need to offer multiple perspectives,” Kerr said. “What I would like to see though is that if we’re not happy with one to offer alternatives for the district to consider. And I say this because otherwise we keep voting no on things, we’re leaving our kids with 20-year-old curriculum which may be just as biased as what we’re offering today.”
Ward responded: “For me to come to the district with a recommendation is me getting on the dance floor, and we’ve been told not to do that. So what I am saying is please come to us with resources that are more balanced.”
Ward said she would research alternatives if asked, but that is not the role of the board. What should be noted is Kerr’s statement that “we keep voting no on things” does not appear to align with reality as the board has approved every resource that Ward has claimed bias in.
Board member Veronica Noland later agreed with Ward that the board shouldn’t be offering suggestions on resources, but she supports the resources because she trusts the staff even when confronted with evidence from Ward that the resources are biased and inaccurate.
“I want to be careful of not getting into the weeds of looking at curriculum,” Noland said. “I mean, yes we are voting to approve this curriculum, but we have staff that put together a team that works countless hours and are trained to do this.”
Noland added: “I do not want to have every book coming to me and me having to decide yea or nay.”
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “I would just like to point out that teachers should not be teaching directly what’s in the resource and saying this is the only truth.”
Sanders said parents can request other resources be used if they don’t like them and Donna Smith, the board’s president, said “teachers have unlimited resources that they can find on their own.” Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, said teachers are “not required to use every article.”
That comes as little solace for Ward since taxpayers are the ones purchasing the biased and inaccurate resources.
“Some people might find it objectionable that what is being taught is so counter to the facts, in some cases, and their view, in other cases, that their money is being used to pay for that,” Ward said. “It’s one thing if we went on the Internet and just did a search, but the community members’ money is going for this resource.”
Smith said “I guess I understand that, but I guess I believe that no matter what resource we have” each board member would find something they didn’t like.
Ward said she understood that but “what I’m seeing is a pervasive one-sided view.”
Some of those one-sided lessons were identified to include openly praising socialist labor leader Dolores Huerta to praising a boy who claims to identify as a girl to play on a girls high school sports team. She cited several inaccurate claims like birds are reptiles, and one lesson presented a biologically inaccurate statement that “she was born a biological boy” regarding a first grade boy who wanted to use the girls restroom at a Colorado school.
Ward said: “Let me say that again for emphasis: ‘She was born a biological boy.’ That sentence is an implicit denial of reality. Furthermore, to encourage a first grade boy to believe he is a girl and to treat him as such is child abuse.”
Costello and Holt both opposed the resource last year due to fiscal issues, but Costello said because this was within the budget and “teachers are for it” he could support it this year.
“If the teachers are for it, and I think from everything I’ve heard about the district we teach critical thinking,” said Costello who added the resource “can be studied critically.”
Holt called the resource a “gamble” using taxpayer dollars. Last year Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent, said it takes “between three to five years” to know if a resource is successful, and at the June 6 meeting when this proposal was presented teacher Ross Marshall said he used to use free Google researches to get resources to support his lessons.
At the June 6 meeting, Jackie Johnson, coordinator for Secondary Literacy and Libraries, said 11th- and 12th-grade teachers already had access to StudySync but “what it was missing was that student component” for those grade levels. Last year, the board allocated $200,000 to purchase 11th- and 12th-grade anthologies, but that was not spent.
Ward opened the discussion by asking the district to allow the public access to the resources. Shrode said the resources are “copyright protected,” but the administration would discuss a way to allow access.
“I would like to move to where we make these in some way… available to the public so the public can see what they’re paying for,” Ward said. “And I mean specifically viewing the resource.”
Another curriculum proposal voted on that evening, approved by a 7-0 vote, regarded elementary physical education. It will come at a total cost of $212,827.
At the June 6 meeting, the administration suggested fitness test results would be sent on individual students to the Illinois State Board of Education, but Ward raised privacy concerns. After checking, Sanders said individual data is not sent.
Sanders said: “I believe that we confirmed that the results are sent in the aggregate… So we give them overall data, but they don’t have access to individual student health information.”
Ward said: “Thank you for checking on that because that would have been a deal killer for me.”