Head of popular charter school crosses the line, uses public resources for personal politics

Oct 29th, 2012 | By | Category: education, elections, Featured Articles, Main Article, Prop 204

Erik Twist, Headmaster of Veritas Archway Classical Academy in Phoenix, recently sent an email blast to the school’s parents explaining his opposition to Proposition 204. Prop 204 seeks to permanently extend the one-cent sales tax to fund public education, which includes charter schools like Veritas.

In the email Mr. Twist rattled off a number of reasons as to why he personally opposes the law, including his fear of funding special interests. Then he attaches a “fact sheet,” created by the special interest group No New Taxes, No on Prop 204 to back up his reasoning.

I was always told that parent directories would and should only be used for official school business. No pandering allowed.

Apparently Mr. Twist, who also happens to be the Chairman of the Arizona Right to Life group, feels political posturing is part of the duties of headmaster. The Right to Lifers, by the way, are also opposed to Prop 204, saying it might provide funds for abortions, which is not mentioned anywhere in the bill and is vehemently denied by the authors.

This makes me wonder, whom is Mr. Twist representing when he sends out political literature to parents? Veritas or his anti-abortion group?

As the head of a charter school, Mr. Twist should be aware that it is against the law to use public resources to try and influence an election. Sending out an email blast from the school’s computers on school time to school families is a blatant abuse of the law, and Mr. Twist should be properly disciplined.

So where’s the outcry? I’m not sure there is one. The only story I could find was one by the Phoenix NewTimes seen here. There’s no mention of any action being taken by the charter school’s board, only a handful of brave parents who have said they plan to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Though considering the mess our current AG is in, I’m not sure how much good it will do.

Can you imagine if this had occurred at a public school? What if a grade school principal had used school resources to pass along political literature along with her personal thoughts on why Prop 204 should be passed, or why she believes President Obama is the best-qualified candidate for education proponents? Do any of us believe this principal wouldn’t be punished for overstepping her bounds?

If Mr. Twist wants to step out publicly and speak about his personal opposition to Prop 204, that’s his right. He can go on camera and write editorials to the paper and use his money to finance special interest groups. That’s all legal.

But using public resources and public dollars to try and further a personal political agenda is clearly not legal and should not be tolerated. And whether or not you agree or disagree with his position doesn’t matter as much as whether or not you agree that people in positions of authority should not be allowed to sidestep the law.

As the head of school, Mr. Twist has hundreds of students under his guidance. He needs to be the example of upstanding behavior instead of the exception.

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7 Comments to “Head of popular charter school crosses the line, uses public resources for personal politics”

  1. mike slater says:

    I agree that public resources and public dollars should not be used to further any agenda when it comes to politics. That being said I do agree with Mr. Twists views on Prop.204 and will vote no on it.

  2. Carlos Arboleda says:

    Your accusations are not fair and are an unjustified character attack on an honest and talented educator. First, charter schools are not public schools and Mr. Twist is not using public resources or public dollars. Veritas is not part of the government just because it receives compensation from the government. In the same way that a military contractor that receives compensation for support to the military is not part of the Department of Defense, Veritas is not part of the government just because it receives compensation from the State. Put in another way, Great Hearts owns the the computers and building, not the State.

    But more troubling, you cleverly impute a hidden agenda on Mr. Twist simply because of his association with a pro-life group. You know better than to do this and puts your credibility at issue.

    Carlos Arboleda

    • Julie Erfle says:

      Carlos,

      While it may sound reasonable to compare charter schools to military contractors, it is not the same and is an incorrect comparison. Charter schools are public schools. Charter schools are part of the government. They receive public funding, have to abide by state and federal standards, and are required to accept all students who apply regardless of ability. If you visit the Arizona Charter Schools Association website, you’ll see this quote: “In 1994, Arizona’s legislature created charter schools, which are public schools that are innovative and responsive to students’ needs while still being held accountable for improved student achievement.”

      Many people, myself included, inaccurately refer to “public schools” and “charter schools,” but the reality is they are both public schools. The difference is one is a district school, the other a charter, but both receive public funding and must abide by the same standards. According to Arizona Statutes, AR 15-511: “A person acting on behalf of a school district or a person who aids another person acting on behalf of a school district shall not use school district or charter school personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or other resources for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections.”

      It is also incorrect to say that I made a character attack on Mr. Twist. Please reread the article. I clearly stated that it is within Mr. Twist’s rights to advocate for whatever position he wants, just not on school time and with school resources. The reference to his position with Arizona Right to Life is valid, in my opinion, because that group is also advocating against Prop 204 by using misleading information, saying that Prop 204 could fund abortions.

      As far as my credibility is concerned, again, I believe you are off the mark. Nothing I wrote in this piece is factually incorrect and my opinions are my opinions… that’s why it is a blog article. If you were looking for a story without opinions, you should read the newspaper, though I caution you to stay away from columnists and editorials as those are also infused with opinion.

  3. Dolores says:

    FYI – My understanding is that the Scottsdale School District has outlined on its website all of the reasons why Prop 204 should be supported. How is this different? So it is ok for a public school district to come out in support of a proposition but not ok for another school to oppose it.

    • Julie Erfle says:

      Dolores,

      It is not okay for a public school to come out in support or opposition to a proposition or even an override or bond election. According to Arizona law, districts may “distribute informational reports on a proposed budget override or bond election” only.

      I checked Scottsdale Unified’s website and found information on what the district would do with the proposed monies from an override as well as fact sheets “for” and “against” the override. I also found a statement on the fiscal impact of Prop 204 on the school’s budget, but no additional statements “for” or “against” the proposition or any statement advocating the school’s position.

  4. [...] week I wrote about an email blast sent to the parents of students at Veritas’ Archway Classical Academy by Headmaster Erik Twist, [...]

  5. [...] 204 posted by Julie Erfle at 5 November, 10:58 AM  0  Last week I wrote about an email blast sent to the parents of students at Veritas’ Archway Classical Academy by Headmaster Erik [...]

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