September 01, 2008

More Education Funds Spent to Appease Homophobes

One of the local high schools has a gay-rights student club. Well, probably several of them do, which is a great change since I was in school. The difference for Maple Grove High School's Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE) is that the school is trying to force them into their own little student group ghetto and the school board is wiling to spend money to defend the school's idiocy.

Four times.

Friday's ruling affirmed a September 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen, who ruled that Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE) should be on equal footing with other student groups at Maple Grove High School.

Ericksen ruled that the school violated the Equal Access Act by giving access to the public address system and school bulletin boards to groups such as the Spirit Council, synchronized swimming and Black Achievers while denying access to SAGE.

The school argued that SAGE was different from the other groups because SAGE wasn't a "curricular group." That is, it wasn't connected to what kids are learning in school. You know, unlike the Spirit Council, which "plans school dances and activities."

Needless to say, the court sees this as discriminatory. But rather than accept that the district court ruling clarifies the legal landscape for schools, the Osseo school district has appealed twice, once against the preliminary injunction and once against the final ruling.

Appeals are not cheap, and the school district is not exactly swimming in cash. In fact, they're asking the voters to approve additional funding this fall.

The board voted earlier this week to pose two questions to voters on Nov. 4: One will ask for $8 million in additional tax revenues a year for 10 years, and the other will ask for $5 million a year over five years to pay for technology equipment and training.

The Osseo district is still smarting from $16.3 million in cuts in the 2009-10 budget that resulted in the closing of two schools, big program changes in four other schools, and the loss of scores of teachers.

So what is the district doing spending money they don't have appealing clear and simple legal rulings? I don't know, but I encourage voters in the school district to find out. Ask the board for their reasoning. Ask the individual members about their priorities in funding education versus court cases.

And ask them now, because they come up for a vote at the same time the funding referendum does.

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