This morning an anti-Common Core activists forwarded to me an email (see below) obtained through an open records request which shows Superintendent Kirsten Baesler forwarding an email about supposed right-wing extremists opposing Common Core policies to a staffer for Governor Jack Dalrymple (Kayla Effertz) as well as the chairmen of the education committee in the state House and Senate (Rep. Mike Nathe of Bismarck and Senator Tim Flakoll of Fargo, respectively).
The email was from the Southern Poverty Law Center sent directly to Baesler on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, and promoted a report produced by the group warning of “far-right propaganda” from “extremists.” Of course, the SPLC is the same group which listed the socially conservative Family Research Council as a “hate group” due to their views on homosexuality, something which earned the SPLC criticism after a 2012 shooting targeting the group.
In fact, the SPLC seems far removed from its original mission of tracking actual hate/extremist groups having moved into attacking organizations which promote a view contrary to certain left-wing orthodoxies (more on that here).
I’ll admit that many of the anti-Common Core activists rub me the wrong way what with their claims of the controversial standards being something akin to a Nazi plot, but all political movements have their fringe.
There are plenty of valid and understandable reasons to oppose Common Core (whether we might agree or disagree with them). Anyone giving the SPLC’s efforts to lump conservative critics of Common Core into their catch-all “extremists” category should have their judgment questioned.
Yet here we have our Republican Superintendent (the office is officially non-partisan but Baesler enjoyed the endorsement of the NDGOP) reading this email from the SPLC and finding it so credible that she forwarded it to the Governor’s office and the top legislative officials on education.
On a Saturday.
That’s quite a window on Baesler’s view of Common Core critics. As if that view wasn’t clear when Baesler’s office used a fake email address to push attacks on Common Core critics to lawmakers and the media, something which earned her office an open records violation last year.
The relationship between Baesler and North Dakota’s conservative base has eroded since she was first elected in 2012. As she enters the second half of her term in office, one wonders if she can hope to keep the NDGOP’s endorsement in the 2016 cycle.
The outcome of what promises to be a vigorous debate over Common Core in this session will likely have a great deal of influence on that (Common Core critics may be mollified if lawmakers move away from the standards), but I wouldn’t be surprised if Baesler faced a primary opponent.