Howe: Keep campaign out of classroomsArea News
-- The Red Wing School District is reviewing its policies pertaining to campaigning on school grounds after it received complaints from Sen. John Howe last week.
By: Sarah Gorvin , Pierce County Herald
RED WING, Minn. -- The Red Wing School District is reviewing its policies pertaining to campaigning on school grounds after it received complaints from Sen. John Howe last week.
Howe, the incumbent Senate candidate, sent a letter Sept. 27 to Supt. Karsten Anderson and Board Chair Mitch Boldt expressing concerns that school employees were campaigning for his Democratic opponent, Matt Schmit, using school resources and during school hours.
“I think there’s a real concern about using taxpayer money for a partisan campaign,” Howe told the R-E.
Howe added that he heard from his son, who attends Red Wing High School, that a teacher “actually gave a lecture on why my opponent would be a good senator.” In addition, Howe said he personally saw a sign endorsing Schmit “next to a teacher’s desk that could be seen by students.”
In his letter, Howe stated that he would “like to hear the (school) board’s plan for putting an end to this inappropriate use of school resources, as well as a plan for corrective action.”
Howe and his wife, Lisa, met with school administrators on Wednesday morning, giving them 24 hours to respond to his complaints.
When questioned by the R-E about the incidents Thursday, Schmit said it was the first he had heard about them.
“Neither I nor our campaign had any knowledge of alleged advocacy on school grounds. This activity was neither requested nor authorized by me or our campaign,” he said. “It should not have happened.”
Schmit is 1998 graduate of Red Wing High School. His father is a retired social studies teacher.
Supt. Anderson said after receiving Howe’s complaint, he sent out an email to all employees with some guidelines outlining what is admissible on school grounds.
Anderson sent a second email Tuesday morning to everyone with a Red Wing Public Schools email address and attached a brochure from the Minnesota School Boards Association about political campaigning.
“We ask that you refrain from using school resources such as computers, email accounts, staff mailboxes, and work time to campaign for or against any political issue or candidate,” Anderson said in the email.
Anderson sent a third email late Wednesday afternoon with further information about the Minnesota laws pertaining to elections and campaigning.
On Thursday, Howe said he hopes the district would take “some corrective steps, too.”
“I really value what public employees do and what teachers do,” he added Friday. “Lisa and my concern is just about making sure that not only our kids but everybody at the school is free from any kind of partisan political comment.”
Schmit added that campaigners need to pay attention to how they’re supporting candidates.
“Although I'm humbled by the level of enthusiasm surrounding our campaign,” he said, “this is a timely reminder that supporters of various campaigns should be sensitive to workplace policies, election law, and the spirit of fair and honest campaigning.”