Some comment-board chatter on an earlier post
on the mayoral race tags Karl Dean
's campaign with a strategic flub for using a private school to film part of a TV ad mentioning public education. The Dean campaign tells Pith that the ad was indeed filmed at University School: "We tried to use a public school, but we were told it's not allowed."
MNPS spokesman Woody McMillin confirms that a Dean campaign request to film was denied because "as an entity of Metro Government, we work very hard to be non-partisan in elections." That may be a worthy goal, but it doesn't seem to be required by school system rules. The district's formal policy
on facilities lists various purposes for which schools can and cannot be used by outside groups. Use by not-for-profit political groups such as campaigns is not mentioned in the list of disallowed purposes. A campaign might be a non-profit, says McMillin, but it is "a political effort on the behalf of a candidate."
School system policy explicitly allows facilities to be rented for religious services and programs even though the law requires schools to be neutral toward religion. Any religious group willing to pay the rental fee presumably can book a facility. So why is it a problem to apply the same neutrality toward use of a school facility by campaigns? McMillin's answer: "Religious organizations don't govern or fund public schools, while many elected officials do have important roles in legislative and funding issues."
McMillin says administrators also worry about the volume of requests they might have to accommodate given "the number of candidates for local, state and federal elected positions who would want to film commercials, hand out materials, be in classrooms." Candidates are able to visit schools and talk with teachers and administrators "as long as the nature of the visit is research and not promotional." (I guess the folks in photo #10 on Bob Clement's multimedia page
didn't get the memo.)
The school system's concerns could be legitimate, but the lamentable consequence is the sight of a televised candidate riffing on public school challenges while standing in the hallway of an expensive private school. We're told that Dean filmed part of his next commercial at MBA.