Who would spend $1 million in a school board race?
Residents of Jefferson County, particularly those with school-aged children, are almost certainly familiar with how high the stakes can be in a school board election. When PBS releases a new documentary series Monday, the whole world can see the story.
“Postcards from the Great Divide” is a series of nine short documentaries about state politics and the ever-deepening partisan split among American voters.
Released via a digital partnership between the PBS Election 2016 initiative and The Washington Post, the films, produced by leading American independent filmmakers, center around specific political issues in nine states.
In Minnesota, urban and rural residents grow increasingly alienated from each other; in Florida, black voters are hesitating to vote; in Wisconsin, ex-lawmakers express regrets about the divisive effects of partisan politics.
And in Colorado, deep-pocketed national special interest groups take sides — and give generously — to a local school board election.
In “Million-Dollar School Board,” award-winning indy filmmakers Louis Alvarez, Andy Kolker and Paul Stekler chronicle the story of the high-profile JeffCo school board recall election last year, which ended in the ouster of three conservative board members.
The election generated passion and outrage from teachers, students and community members. Special interest groups from both sides poured more than $1 million into the race.
The film begins with a national statistic — “By the end of 2016, undisclosed donors will have spent $1 billion to influence political races at all levels” — and then gives that shocking number a more local angle, telling the story of “how big money and polarizing politics turned a sleepy school board election into a scorched-earth battle zone.”
The first six films from the series, including the 12-minute “Million-Dollar School Board,” are available here.
Photo credit: Screenshot from “Million-Dollar School Board”