News Story

School Officials Using Technology For Advocacy

District officials urge parents to take action against reform using Capwiz system

During the lame duck legislation session, the Oakland Schools official Twitter account was active tweeting anti-reform messages.

The Oakland Schools account retweeted a post by the Michigan House Democrats and the official school district account also linked to liberal news sites with stories about Michigan’s political right-to-work debate.

In the past, public school administrators were limited to letters or the school district website when trying to influence parents to act on legislation.

However, more and more public schools are using school resources such as official school district Twitter accounts and an advocacy site named Capwiz to display partisan views.

Capwiz sends email alerts to parents and community residents that directs people to a website that has partisan news articles. For example, the school reform Senate Bill 1358 and House Bill 6004 were described in one Capwiz alert as “reckless and dangerous.” The site also has written letters with a prescribed point of view ready to be sent to legislators with a click of a button. Capwiz is the latest online resource that is being used more and more by superintendents trying to influence parents.

Oakland Schools also used Twitter to send out a link to Capwiz and allow parents to send out a prepared letter to legislators asking them not to act on education reform legislation.

Campaign finance law says school officials cannot use public resources for elections.

Troy School District Superintendent Barbara Fowler promoted Capwiz in a letter sent to parents.

Fowler wrote: “Here’s what I’m asking you to do. First, sign up for Capwiz, a service that will keep you informed about potential action in Lansing — and give you the ability to contact your legislator with the click of a button to make your voice heard on these critical issues. We need as many parents as possible to let Lansing know that these bills will destroy the Troy education you have worked so hard to give your children:”

Bloomfield Public Schools Superintendent Rob Glass also asked parents to register for Capwiz in a recent letter.

Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said school administrators are abusing their position. He said sites like Capwiz give an unbalanced view of events and are lobbying tools not legitimate information sites.

“The technology is new but the tactics are not,” Drolet said. “Public schools have been doing this for decades.”

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.