Bloomington School Board
MRLF endorses Bloomington school board incumbents Korman, Olson, Starks
From the Minneapolis Labor Review
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
BLOOMINGTON — Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Bloomington school board for the November 7 election — and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“What’s so important is that we have a school board that really believes in public education and believes in the community,” says Wendy Marczak, school social worker and president of the Bloomington Federation of Teachers. “That’s what’s at stake.”
The three school board incumbents in the race — Nelly Korman, Mia Olson, and Heather Starks — are running with the endorsement of the Bloomington Federation of Teachers and the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.
In Marczak’s experience, these current board members are “the first group that actually goes over to the State Capitol to advocate for students.”
“They were down there supporting public education and it’s clear they believe in public education,” Marczak said.
“They’re determined to be a ‘no drama’ board,” Marczak added, “and it really showed during COVID.”
Around the state, school board members who were diligently trying to follow public health guidelines drew harassment from right-wing COVID-skeptics. Many embattled school board members quit.
Korman, Olson and Starks, however, “kept going back to what was best and following the Governor’s order,” Marczak said. “They weathered it.”
“It was impressive,” Marczak said. “One of the most difficult times in public education and they didn’t quit. They stayed steadfast.”
Now the Bloomington school board, like other school boards across Minnesota and across the country, is facing outraged parents seeking to ban certain books from school libraries and from the school curriculum.
“Why now?” Marczak asks. “What’s going on now?”
The book-banners are targeting books addressing racial justice or social justice issues in the United States or books that speak to the experiences of LGBTQ youth.
“It feels more like a political campaign than a grassroots campaign,” Marczak noted. “It isn’t organic.”
The book-banners are following the lead of websites that tell them which books to target, which passages to cite.
If some parents don’t want their own kids to read certain books, that’s fine, Marczak said.
But “other parents don’t want a small group of people deciding what their kids can read,” Marczak maintained.
Unfortunately, Marczak reported, two other candidates in the Bloomington school board race have aligned themselves with the book-banning forces.
All three of the labor-endorsed candidates are current or former educators themselves. “Nelly, Mia and Heather all have teaching degrees or are substitute teachers,” Marczak noted. “You feel like they’re with us — that we’re all one big team trying to educate the Bloomington community.”