Hijacking Toddlers

By Steven Miller
  • Monday, March 17, 2003

Silly you.

You thought when you entrusted your small children to Nevada’s public school system that the teachers and administrators would honor the trust you were placing in them.

You didn’t realize what recent news reports have made clear—that many Nevada government-school bureaucrats and teachers see your youngsters merely as small political missiles they can fling at Carson City, in their political wars of the moment.

In California early this month, it was learned that a state college professor had compelled undergraduates to write their state representatives to protest pending state budget cuts. When this became public knowledge, the professor—at Citrus College in Glendora—was reprimanded and put on administrative leave.

Here in Nevada, however, our officials do not even pretend to muster a comparable standard of public integrity.

Simultaneous with the Citrus College events, news reports in Southern Nevada revealed that Clark County teachers had conscripted multiple classrooms of small children into the political fight to force a hike in your taxes. Elementary school youngsters were set to laboring under the direction of district art teachers to produce box-loads of political “valentines”—bearing messages like “Please raise my mommy’s taxes.” The boxes were then delivered to the Las Vegas offices of the governor and state legislators.

When this became public knowledge, did the Clark County School District reprimand anyone? No, instead, district officials proudly explained that they themselves had been behind the whole campaign!

Turns out the school district’s director of community and government relations had suggested the scheme at a meeting of top district bureaucrats. Then the district art coordinator, via e-mail, had directed district art teachers to encourage students to support the campaign.

The teachers were instructed how the valentines should be addressed and how the students should deliver the cards to the Sawyer Building on Valentine’s Day. “The valentines,” directed the art bureaucrat, “should have a message like ‘Have a Heart, Support Education.’” Many children subsequently regurgitated those words exactly.

Perhaps, you say, this episode was a mere exception—a case where a few minor bureaucrats in the Clark County school system got carried away and inadvertently abused their power.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. The corrupt exploitation of Silver State schoolchildren in pursuit of taxpayer bucks is a long-running Nevada scandal—one regularly re-perpetrated by teacher-union activists and school-district bureaucrats. It’s become standard fare, for example, in Clark and Washoe county school bond campaigns.

The central issue here is ethical. Parents agree to turn their offspring over to the public schools each day only on the understanding that the schools will not abuse their temporary guardianship. But it is by definition abusive to hijack classes of unknowing toddlers in order to brainwash the kids into parroting simplistic (and often essentially dishonest) political slogans.

A similar ethical blindness often corrupts the use of taxpayer funds by Nevada’s school districts. Regularly, district officials hijack monies appropriated for other purposes and use them to finance broad-based propaganda campaigns designed to generate even higher taxes on you.

This sort of thing is illegal under federal law, where 18 U.S.C. 1913, among other statutes, makes it a criminal offense for any executive branch agency to use appropriated funds for activities that directly or indirectly are “intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, to favor or oppose ... any legislation or appropriation by Congress....”.

In Nevada, however, it’s standard operating procedure. Regularly, taxes wrung out of taxpayers are used by state educrats to fund their lobbying and public relations campaigns to get state lawmakers to pass new taxes.

A current high-profile example is “iNVest,” the coordinated and expensive statewide propaganda campaign of the state’s 17 school districts to get state lawmakers to raise your taxes by $900 million. In Clark County alone, thoroughly one-sided propaganda broadsheets were printed at taxpayer expense by the district and mailed to the homes of over a quarter of a million students. Then Superintendent Carlos Garcia led barely disguised Las Vegas rallies for tax hikes—complete with teen political activists under district sponsorship.

Unfortunately, in the hijacking of toddlers and the hijacking of taxpayer funds, Nevada’s school districts simply reflect their basic nature. As agencies of government they necessarily and fundamentally rely on the coercive tax and police powers of the state—rather than, through excellence, winning the voluntary consent of individual parents.

Consequently, political power is repeatedly revealed as the districts’ real guiding star—not truth, nor integrity, nor parents’ hopes or goals for their children.

Steven B. Miller is policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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