Democrat-allied school board PAC rolls out endorsements that mirror those of teachers union

The School Board Integrity Project was formed in May; last month it held a fundraiser attended by a number of candidates, DFL Party activists and elected officials.

Zach Arco and Susan Witt, candidates for the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, participate in a recent candidate forum (QCTV/YouTube)

A new organization fronted by a group of DFL-allied political consultants has rolled out a string of endorsements for candidates in several of the most hotly contested school board races across the Twin Cities.

And while the School Board Integrity Project is not officially affiliated with the state teachers union, its endorsed candidates in many of the most visible metro area school board contests coming up on Tuesday closely mirror the endorsements of Education Minnesota.

The districts where School Board Integrity Project and Education Minnesota have both endorsed the same slates of candidates include: Anoka-Hennepin, Bloomington, Hastings, South Washington County, Stillwater, Roseville, Mounds View, West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan, and Columbia Heights.

There are four districts where the organizations have endorsed many of the same candidates but with some differences, including Fridley, St. Anthony-New Brighton, Minnetonka, and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan.

The School Board Integrity Project was officially formed in May. Its mission, according to its website, is to help “guide potential and registered candidates and incumbents who align with our principles and equip them with the tools they need in their ‘campaign toolboxes’ in order to run successful school board campaigns.”

While the founders for the 501(c)(4) organization contended, when reached by Alpha News in September, that the group is “not partisan,” Leili Fatehi and Kyrstin Schuette are well-known in DFL consulting circles. They have also apparently enlisted the help of longtime Democrat operative Chris Kluthe.

Last month the fledgling organization held a fundraiser at a St. Paul brewery that was attended by several DFL Party executive committee members, longtime Education Minnesota activist and current State Auditor Julie Blaha, and a number of candidates endorsed by both the School Board Integrity Project and Education Minnesota. One of those candidates is Erin Heers-McArdle, whose recent campaign finance report shows she’s raised more than $17,000 for her re-election bid for the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, with a significant portion coming from Education Minnesota and Twin Cities-based unions. Her opponent, Linda Hoekman, who is endorsed by the Minnesota Parents Alliance, has also raised more than $17,000.

The School Board Integrity Project entered the battleground for political control less than a year after the grassroots organization Minnesota Parents Alliance began organizing and supporting candidates in school board races across the Twin Cities. MPA founders have said school boards in many communities have been controlled for far too long by Education Minnesota. MPA’s mission statement is to provide support for school board candidates “who are aligned with our mission of prioritizing academic achievement, equality and parental rights in their school district.” Its list of endorsed candidates can be found here.

School Board Integrity Project co-founder Kyrstin Schuette told Alpha News earlier this fall part of her organization’s aim is to provide a counterbalance to what she says is a “calculated conservative push to nationalize and radicalize our school boards.”

All of the School Board Integrity Projects endorsed candidates to date have taken and “been awarded” what the organization calls its “School Board Integrity Project Candidate Pledge distinction.” That pledge includes talking points about “rejecting book bans” and supporting “an honest depiction of our country’s history.”

The School Board Integrity Project has endorsed the following school board candidates, all of whom have also been endorsed by Education Minnesota:

Anoka-Hennepin: Erin Heers-McArdle, Michelle Langenfeld, Susan Witt

South Washington County: Melinda Dols, Satonia Moore, Simi Patnaik

Bloomington: Heather Starks, Mia Olson, Nelly Korman

Hastings: Brandy Wentzler, Mariah Ring, Matt Bruns, Matt Seeger

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan: Cory Johnson, Anna Williams (Education Minnesota has also endorsed Sachin Isaacs and Jackie Magnuson)

Minnetonka: Sally Browne, Dan Olson, Michael Remucal

Mounds View: Alissa Daire Nelson, Heidi Danielson, Jim DeMay, Jonathan Weinhagen

Roseville: Mike Boguszewski, Rose Wan-Mui Chu, Todd Anderson

Stillwater (special election): Chris Lauer

Fridley: Erik Keeler, Jake Karnopp (Education Minnesota has also endorsed Sara Jones)

West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan: Randi Walz, Rowen Elsmore, Morgan Steele

Columbia Heights: Michelle Pettway

St. Anthony-New Brighton: Laurel Hood

In those districts, the Minnesota Parents Alliance has endorsed:

Anoka-Hennepin: Linda Hoekman, Zach Arco, Scott Simmons

South Washington County: Anthony Mahmood, Jaime Kokaisel, Ryan Clarke

Bloomington: Ricardo Oliva, Sandra Johnson, Langa Oriho

Hastings: Nancy Blanchard, Jenny Wiederholt-Pine, Philip Biermaier, Melissa Millner

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan: Lori Urkiel, Melissa Field, Teressa Schlueter, Kim Bauer

Minnetonka: Brandon Voges, Chris Kratoska, Karen Jordan

Mounds View: Paul Wikstrom, Heidi Caccamo, Art Mills, Mark Kelliher

Roseville: Alan Holasek, Karl Crump, Adam Maier

Stillwater: Jessica Johnson

Fridley: Ibsen Gabriel, Roger Ungemach

Columbia Heights: Cheryl Ekstrand


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.