Cannon Falls School Board incumbents shocked anyone would run against them

Two Cannon Falls School Board incumbents expressed frustration this week that other people in the community dared run against them, and worse yet, dared to share resources and run as a team.

I also kind of question why there are so many candidates here today. I ran in early 2002, there was four, maybe five people for three roles. Now today we have 12 running for four. Why is that? And why do we have four people running together and what’s the agenda behind each?

Bill Thompson, Cannon Falls School Board Member

The answer to Mr. Thompson’s question is that academic achievement has fallen in the district and the school board and administration aren’t listening to parents.

According to recently released test scores, fewer than half of Cannon Falls students are proficient in math (48.9%), down from 60% in 2019. Science and reading aren’t much better at 51.1% and 53.9% respectively. Reading scores were at 67.2% just four years ago.

This phenomenon is not unique to Cannon Falls, a small district halfway between the Twin Cities and Rochester along Highway 52. Parent-centered candidates stepped up to run for school board in every corner of the state in 2022. Parents watched during the pandemic as test scores declined in reading and math while school boards and superintendents got defensive and stopped listening, often shutting down public forums at meetings.

Running for office was a logical next step for parents concerned about their children. Running together with like-minded candidates simply mimics the long-time strategy of the teachers’ union.

Luke Winchell, Thompson’s colleague on the board, thinks the whole thing is just a distraction and things in Cannon Falls are just fine.

This group is a distraction. They’re trying to distract, to take the focus off the good things because they think there’s a need for change. I don’t think there’s a need for change. This group will tell you the scores are down, and all that stuff. Our MCA scores are higher than the state average. Across the board. So we can throw that distraction out of the way. We took a decrease in reading, ok? We’re not perfect but we’re working on getting there. Our test scores, for surrounding districts are above most, except for a couple. We’re not perfect, but we’re striving to get there.

Luke Winchell, Cannon Falls School Board Member
Cannon Falls School Board incumbents Bill Thompson and Luke Winchell

Shocking that an incumbent school board member doesn’t think there’s a need for change. Winchell is pretty satisfied with Cannon Falls being above the state average and better than “most” of the surrounding districts. They’re trying really hard, after all.

How dare these parents upset our apple cart with all this talk of academic excellence and test scores. We’re better than average! Go Bombers!

Winchell and Thompson must be sharing talking points with Denise Specht, the President of Education Minnesota, the state’s largest teachers’ union. She wrote a letter to one of her local unions this week extolling them to hang in there and continue endorsing and supporting their slates of union-approved candidates (it’s ok for the union to run slates of candidates, just not parents).

Many candidates running for school boards these days are not the typical candidates of the past. There are candidates running on a national agenda to make our schools less welcoming, break our unions and whitewash American history, including banning lessons on the Trail of Tears, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Anne Frank because some consider them “divisive.”

The typical candidate of the past is someone who files to run, gets endorsed by the union and blindly votes for everything the superintendent puts in front of them. They are filled with pride handing out diplomas each year at the high school graduation but never ask a tough question.

The second half of Specht’s statement is absurd by the way. No one is advocating to stop teaching about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Once again, for Denise’s sake, the opposition to Critical Race Theory is not about the topics chosen in history class. It’s about how everything is presented as oppressor/oppressed and how you divide today’s students by race in order to make your point.

Board Member Bill Thompson claimed at the school board debate that he’s “never had an agenda. I’m not political.” The arrogant battle cry of Leftist politicians: My beliefs are righteous and good, I’m looking out for the students. The other side has a political agenda.

Specht ends her letter with a not-so-veiled-shot at organizations like Center of the American Experiment.

Although it may not feel like it sometimes, the majority of Minnesota voters value the considered recommendations of educators over the wild accusations of the MAGA media – but those voters must hear from their educators, clearly and repeatedly, if they are to act on those recommendations on Election Day.

MAGA media? We’ll take it.

My advice to union and establishment school board candidates? Spend less time worrying about why and how you’re being challenged and more time listening to parents about how to improve the academic achievement of your students.