Where we stand...
With zero training or experience in public education, five of our school board members are declining resources for student learning, steering curriculum changes, and denying funds for teacher travel. They are doing all this while implementing broad, restrictive policies entirely in line with a partisan agenda.
Sadly, these decisions are rarely made in collaboration with teachers and school leaders with valuable expertise in student learning. Their actions have demonstrated a disregard for education policy and procedure. When they have concerns with curriculum or ideas to improve our systems, they turn first to social media (with inaccurate claims). Instead of working with district staff to make changes, they resort to policy additions/revisions or to last-minute changes in board agendas
Fiscal Responsibility/ Prop S
Elected officials are meant to be stewards over our public systems. They provide an extra check and balance to ensure our funds are being used honestly and that all our schools are equipped with the resources they need. As the need arises, it is also their obligation to inform the public when changes in revenue are needed to continue operations and maintain competitive salaries for staff and quality learning experiences for our students.
A recent FHSD Chief Financial Officer said our 2023-2024 annual budget was the most disturbing and difficult she had prepared to date. A tax increase, or levy, has not been implemented in Francis Howell for 19 years. We have the second lowest tax rate of all school districts in Saint Charles County, and neighboring districts have far surpassed our own in teacher pay. Some of our more experienced educators could make up to 10K more in annual salary by moving to a neighboring district.
Because school funding formulas, differing opinions about tax rates, and the use of public funds have always been hot topics (and easy fodder for political campaigning), some have highlighted and exaggerated FHSD errors or overages of the past, stocking distrust of district officials. But miser leadership does not equal fiscal responsibility.
In a public school system, simply tightening expenses without increasing revenue leaves our students without a quality education. Full stop.
Francis Howell Forward notes a clear conflict of interest When public school board directors are affiliated with political leaders or organizations that promote school choice initiatives. These policies redirect public tax dollars away from public systems toward private ones.
Historically, when America has experienced moments of racial reckoning, like integration, there is a pattern of increasing interest in private and charter education and defunding of public education. This creates more segregation, both racially and economically.
A redistribution of funding also places undue burden on public schools, which are required by law to educate students with disabilities and students for whom English is a second language, while private schools are not required to serve either of those populations.
NEA/ MNEA/ FHEA
Unions play an important role in the workforce, as they protect workers from unsafe work environments and unfair labor practices. This matters because educators are every district’s most valuable resource. Research shows that a skilled teacher will have more impact on a student’s education than any curriculum or technology. Furthermore, because their salaries are dependent on tax rates, educator salaries often fall behind inflation rates. When we take their levels of training and education into account, teachers are some of the lowest paid professionals with the highest levels of education in our nation.
Whether or not teachers choose to contribute Association dues, they benefit from the advocacy of Education Associations, particularly when it comes to pay and benefits.
(See the links below to learn about how teachers fund their associations and the distinction between a local association and its state or national parent organization.)
Faith, Spirituality, & Politics
FHForward is honored to walk with many believing, deeply spiritual members. We are also honored to have the trust of those who have been hurt in their faith spaces or those who may not identify as believers in any particular religion.
While faith is a deeply personal and individual journey, we firmly hold that principles of equity are fully aligned with a range of holy scriptures from all major world religions. We further hold that religious practice is not equivalent to moral and ethical conduct and should not be weaponized for political gain.
Francis Howell Forward firmly states that one’s physical anatomy, gender identity, and sexual orientation is intensely personal, and that no government or institution should influence how an individual identifies.
While schools have no business in the development of one’s sexual or gender identity, they are responsible for ensuring that children are physically and emotionally safe in their buildings and for preparing students to collaborate with others who are different from them. Because research shows that those who identify as LGBTQ are at higher risk for mental illness and more frequently targeted for bullying and violence, (especially in youth), leaders benefit from training that informs them about the needs of LGBTQ students in classrooms. Indeed, similar research overwhelmingly points to just one supportive adult correlating with a significant decrease in suicidal ideation for LGBTQ persons.
SEL (Social-Emotional Learning)
Special interests are claiming that social-emotional learning is a secret avenue for indoctrination. In actuality, the core social-emotional competencies are:
These lessons include discussions about peer pressure, bullying, time management, and more. Most buildings use a research-based curriculum, and the time spent on these lessons ranges from minutes per day to one or more hours per month. Francis Howell Forward recognizes and values the overwhelming research which shows these competencies are directly related to students’ academic and lifelong success.
CRT (Critical Race Theory)
It requires no complex theory to understand that stark racial disparities in our country exist. Evidence for these claims is repeated in countless peer reviewed studies by scholars and researchers from every notable institution in the nation and by the accounts of lived experiences from People of Color.
The controversy over Critical Race Theory was led by Christopher Rufo, a conservative think tank fellow with the Manhattan Institute, and launched mere months after the murder of George Floyd. In this intensely heated and divided moment in our nation, when education leaders were navigating school openings, mask restrictions, and the Black Lives Matter movement, misinformation about CRT galvanized voters with little understanding of systemic racism. This aim to interrupt efforts to address and reduce racial discrimination was successful.
Francis Howell Forward calls on our community to look beyond this manufactured controversy to address the problems at hand. We are eager to engage in discussions with school district leaders and community members (especially with those most harmed by discrimination) about age-appropriate ways schools can address discrimination in our schools, in our communities, and in our hearts.
We call on our board members to recognize rising incidents of discrimination in our schools and to support safe learning environments that will allow each student the opportunity to thrive.
Francis Howell Forward supports the right of any parent to filter their student’s book selection. The district has provided a way for parents to do just that by utilizing the Destiny system with each campus’ Learning Commons. We encourage families to make use of this system and to work with their students to determine which topics/materials are right for each student.
Where parents disagree with librarians, the district also provides an avenue to appeal these decisions, and we encourage parents to make use of this process. Ultimately, parents have the right to parent, and this right cannot be taken by the institution or by other parents.