News Story

Superintendent Uses School Email List For Politics

Head of Farmington Public Schools urges parents to oppose charter school bill

Farmington Public Schools Superintendent Susan Zurvalec angered some parents by using the school’s list-serve to send out an email asking parents to contact their legislators to oppose a bill that would lift the arbitrary cap on charter public schools.

Experts have said in the past that such communication using school resources is not in violation of the campaign finance laws because there is no election involved. The message was sent Dec. 5.

Deb O’Hagan, a member of the Lakes Area Tea Party that has members in the Farmington School District, says she has a problem with Zurvalec’s message for numerous reasons.

O’Hagan wrote in an email that the district has unfair access to a captive audience and is using school resources to promote one point of view.

O’Hagan said it “is unfair to those who disagree and are not provided similar access.”

“In this case, the schools are a monopoly controlling the message,” O’Hagan said. “How ironic the latest use of publicly funded resources is an attempt to stop competition.”

Zurvalec said it was not a political agenda, but an educational policy agenda that she said would have a negative impact on the district’s students.

Zurvalec said she has a right to communicate her concerns to students via the school’s list-serve and it has been done in the past.

“I think it’s appropriate,” she said.

Eric Doster, an attorney who runs an election law practice and has worked with the state GOP, called it “distasteful.”

“It’s just wrong for government to use taxpayer resources to promote one point of view,” Doster said. “The role of these school districts should be to educate kids. But there is nothing illegal about it.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.