Mom Power: Stand Up Blue Valley

Think you can't make a difference? These moms fight for education funding.




STAND UP BLUE VALLEY

 

   It all started two years ago with a glossy postcard mailed to homes in the Blue Valley School District from the Virginia-based “Americans For Prosperity” organization. The postcard didn’t exactly include flattering prose about the Blue Valley schools, and that fact alone garnered it lot of attention. While you can criticize Leawood and Overland Park residents' HOAs, their OCD lawn care ritual or their beige houses, you better never, ever talk smack about their schools.

   That postcard, combined with Brownback’s budget cuts, state legislators voting records on education funding plus a school board election all created the perfect storm that led to the birth of Stand Up Blue Valley. The founders of the group met each other on Facebook, but not in the way you’re probably thinking.

   The small group of mothers bonded over fact-checking what they called a candidate’s erroneous social media posts. Kristi Burgess says, “As we would comment on the inaccurate information, we realized we all had the same goal, and that was to ensure the Blue Valley schools would remain not just excellent, but, hello, open.”

   Jennifer Jarrell, a mother of four, gets feisty talking about how SUBV was founded. “As moms, we decided we were going to do whatever it took to keep education in Kansas a priority. Johnson County was built on great schools. Quality education is the reason people move here and stay here. It’s more than an education issue. It’s an economic one as well.”

   The moms created their own kitchen cabinet. Their first meeting was around Patty Logan’s dining room table in summer 2015. It was there that this diverse group of longtime Republicans and dyed-in-the-wool Democrats joined forces to plot out what they could do to increase education funding.

   Their plan was simple: back candidates who support school funding and educate the voters on what’s happening on every level of government from the Blue Valley school board to Topeka.

   Dr. Logan says, “We knew parents were busy. We knew that people needed someone to break down the facts, a trusted source of information, and we made a pledge to become just that.”

   The group did research, interviewed candidates, launched a website, sent emails, posted videos, and became very active on social media with updates on what was happening on the local and state level in regards to education funding.

   They also kicked it old-school. The moms were seemingly everywhere, going door-to-door, marching in parades with their banner and taking advantage of the crowds at high school football games. Elizabeth Arnold called it the “No windshield left behind” movement.

   “We left an information card on every single windshield, pretty much at every single game.”

   The group says they knew their hard work was all worth it after the August 2016 Republican primary when every candidate they had endorsed won.

   SUBV moved on to monitoring the Kansas state legislative session and keeping their vast network of parents informed while holding elected officials' feet to the fire about funding education. They were euphoric when the legislature voted for putting almost $300 million in the state coffers for education.

   As Heather Lancaster succinctly puts it, “We busted it.”

   There is no rest for this citizen power group. Erica Massman says, “Make no mistake. We were never one and done. We’re not going anywhere.”

   For more information, visit www.standupbluevalley.org