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Cusd 200 School Board Election 2023

Julie Kulovits is seeking a second term on the District 200 board after having been appointed in 2022 to fill a vacant spot. She has three students in District 200 and has served as a classroom parent and reading aide.Spencer Garrett “has strong discernment for what is right and is not afraid to stand up for the disadvantaged, marginalized, or struggling student” because he grew up with dyslexia, his campaign page states. He states in his campaign video that he wants students to feel joy for learning and that “preserving childhood is what I’m passionate about.”

Amanda “Amy” Erkenswick has been a room parent at Emerson Elementary and has two children in District 200 with her husband, Mark. In her campaign video, Erkenswick says, “I believe parents should be welcomed with open arms to engage with and through our district schools and administration.”
David A. Sohmer earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Wheaton College. In the years since, Sohmer has been the Chair of the Board of Deacons at Wheaton College and is a commissioner on the city’s Community Relations Commission.Erik C. Hjerpe has three children who attend District 200 schools. He studied business at Wesleyan University and Keller Graduate School of Management. Hjerpe’s platform prioritizes social-emotional learning initiatives and diversity and conclusion, along with facility improvements among the district’s middle schools.

WHEATON, IL — Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots to determine who would snag a seat on the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education. Heading into Tuesday’s race, there were nine candidates hoping to snag one of four seats that were up for grabs on the board.
Rutledge’s website states, “With over twenty buildings, District 200 has many roofs, HVAC systems, parking lots, security systems, and other components that need attention. I believe my experience [as a commercial realtor] can be useful in the Board’s oversight role.”Incumbent candidate Dave Long currently serves as secretary of the District 200 board. Long’s platform supports community transparency, emotional learning and limiting tax referendums until the district’s debt has been paid.John K. Rutledge was in a clear lead over Kimberly Hobbs as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. For the four-year term on the District 200 board, Long, Erkenswick and Hjerpe had a distinct lead.

In her campaign video, Hobbs said she aims to “expose our children’s minds to history’s transcendent works, which instill a love of virtue truth and beauty.”Hobbs is on the Parents for District 200 slate, along with David A. Sohmer, Spencer Garrett and Amanda “Amy” Erkenswick.
His campaign page states, “He also has a deep concern about students with special needs to ensure they are not left behind but get the excellent education that they deserve. David believes that education is a foundational element of our society, and this is what is underlying his desire to serve on the CUSD 200 Board of Education.”

Hjerpe’s website states, “Building consensus, creative problem-solving, empathy, project management, the ability to approach a topic from different angles, knowing when to engage subject matter experts, and the ability to develop and execute strategy are among the strengths that I will bring to this role.”

Kimberly Hobbs earned a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Wheaton College and has lived in Wheaton for three decades, according to her campaign page. Hobbs and her husband, Steven, have seven children who attended District 200 schools.
Dave Long currently serves as secretary of the District 200 board. On his campaign site, Long says he went to private Catholic schools in Chicago because the public school options were less ideal. He writes, “It’s very refreshing to live in a community where that is not the case. The quality of education in District 200, as well as the safety and well-being of the students being a priority, have always made us very comfortable with the choice to have our children attend our local public schools.”Anjali Bharadwa has three children who attend District 200 schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and has worked at a consulting firm for more than a decade, currently holding a senior director role.

Rutledge’s website states, “With over twenty buildings, District 200 has many roofs, HVAC systems, parking lots, security systems, and other components that need attention. I believe my experience can be useful in the Board’s oversight role.”On her campaign website, Bharadwa states, “I am running to provide a fresh perspective and diversity in thought for District 200 School Board. I have been a parent to a child attending a district 200 schools for the past 11 years and will be for 8 years to come. I bring experience along with the vested interest in seeing our district succeed. The School Board is supposed to be a reflection of the community it serves. I feel that there are many gaps in our representation that I could fill. I am a woman with a career in technology as a Senior Director, and I am a racial and religious minority.”In her campaign video, Hobbs said she aims to “expose our children’s minds to history’s transcendent works, which instill a love of virtue truth and beauty.”

Hjerpe’s platform prioritizes social-emotional learning initiatives and diversity and conclusion, along with facility improvements among the district’s middle schools.
WHEATON, IL — Nine candidates are in the running for four seats on the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education. Two candidates are facing off for one unexpired two-year term and seven are vying for three open seats with full four-year terms.John K. Rutledge has served on the Wheaton City Council and on the budget committee for College of DuPage, according to his campaign site. He works as a commercial realtor, which he feels will help him address facility issues throughout District 200.Erik C. Hjerpe has three children who attend District 200 schools. He studied business at Wesleyan University and Keller Graduate School of Management.In a campaign video for the League of Women Voters, Kulovits said “I want to make sure that the education we provide to students in our district taps into” the expertise of current educators and “not the personal or political viewpoints of board members.”For more information please visit the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) website. This webpage includes links for additional webinars, a candidates guide and key dates.

On April 4th, 2023, CUSD 201 will be electing candidates to fill three (3) School Board Member seats. All prospective candidates seeking information can download School Board Petition Packets or they can be picked up in the Election Division office located at:
Outside of our responsibility to the children, we have a responsibility to be involved with the community. Serving as a public official does not stop at the end of the board meeting, it continues and carry’s itself into all aspects of life. We have a responsibility to volunteer and serve the public, we have a responsibility to advocate for our community in the local government outside of the district, and we have a responsibility to listen, not talk. It is called public service for a reason, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to serve us, and fit whatever needs we the people have, rather than the people serving the government.I believe that school board members, above all else, have a responsibility to protect our children and ensure that everybody is provided a fair shake and a great education. All else is secondary to the wellbeing of our children, as we’ve been trusted to educate, protect, and socialize them through the classrooms and extracurricular activities we offer.

School board members are there to protect our education and our children, use tax dollars responsibly to further the community, and represent the community in pursuit of public recognition and further funding.
I believe that our local representatives are always there to serve us, and that we should be building a greater relationship with local government officials. Representative Dan Swanson is already a friend of the District, with FFA members visiting him during their annual Ag Legislative Day where they visit the State Capitol. We need to be pursuing and building more relationships like that, especially with newly elected State Rep Gregg Johnson and State Senator Mike Halpin, who have a passion for the local community.

Note: Ballotpedia reserves the right to edit Candidate Connection survey responses. Any edits made by Ballotpedia will be clearly marked with [brackets] for the public. If the candidate disagrees with an edit, he or she may request the full removal of the survey response from Ballotpedia does not edit or correct typographical errors unless the candidate’s campaign requests it.
The school board is meant to govern the school district in a way that provides all students and parents with an equal opportunity to get involved in education. They have a responsibility to listen to public opinion in all matters, but must also use their own discretion to ensure that everybody is guaranteed a fair eduction, even in the event that policies that may be required may not be exactly popular.

I believe that in our district especially, safety and equality have become frequent issues that prevent our children from receiving the great education they are owed. I’ve spoken to several families who have had to leave the school district because they didn’t feel safe, were subjected to bullying, or were the recipients of various threats. I myself received death threats my senior year after coming out as transgender, and I know of several students who have been in physical altercations that left them with injuries.My first job was as a seasonal worker on a food truck owned by a lifelong family friend. I operated the cash register, took credit cards, grilled food, set up our truck and location, and assisted customers with whatever else they might need. I worked for roughly four summers in this job, whenever school was out for the summer.

As a disabled trans person, I’ve seen how society can often fail people simply because they are different, and I’ve made it my focus to ensure that everybody is ensured a fair shake in all aspects of public life. No student should be bullied, or receive a lesser education simply because they are autistic, LGBT, disabled, or for any other reason. All children deserve a seat at the table, and deserve to be cared for by their community.
Veronica Sparksman completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in 2023. The survey questions appear in bold and are followed by Sparksman’s responses. Candidates are asked three required questions for this survey, but they may answer additional optional questions as well.Ballotpedia features 409,847 encyclopedic articles written and curated by our professional staff of editors, writers, and researchers. Click here to contact our editorial staff, and click here to report an error. Click here to contact us for media inquiries, and please donate here to support our continued expansion.

Local government is far too often underutilized in education. It is through these relationships that we can campaign to increase public education funding, receive additional assistance from the state and local counties, and use these relationships to pursue grants and special programs for the district.
I simply want to leave the world better than I found it, above all else. In terms of policy suggestions, I would love to leave our extracurriculars and other departments better funded than they are currently, and would be even happier to see student violence taken seriously as an issue rather than being brushed under the rug.My name is Veronica Sparksman, I’m a 2021 graduate and precious Homecoming Queen of the Sherrard #200 school district, and previously worked a political organizer in the 2022 midterms organizing in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District!

You can’t focus when you’re afraid of coming to school. A child cannot learn when they are concerned, scared, and under direct threat of other students. The district has completely failed to address these complaints, to the point that we have seen students hospitalized from student-on-student violence. The school board needs to enact a no-tolerance policy for violence, and begin enforcing policies that are already in place to prevent bullying and violence. Children should not be afraid to come to school, school should be a place where children can be safe and happy to see their friends, and I believe increasing funding to after school activities while also clamping down on student violence and bullying will allow our children to feel safe again.

I adore local issues, and have dedicated my life to furthering discussions of problems facing rural Americans since my days in high school. My passion for education has always been at the forefront of my political involvement, as rural communities have historically been underfunded and forgotten in comparison to suburban and urban school districts. It’s my belief that every child deserves a good education, regardless of who they are, what obstacles they may face, and any outside influences. I believe our curriculum should encourage students to explore their creativity, while guiding them towards being the best people they can be and providing them with the tools they need to live a good life.
Outside of local affairs impacting the school district, I am also passionate about lowering the tax burden on the working class, strengthening the social safety net, defending Social Security, and improving our infrastructure.Bullying and Cyberbullying should have no place in our local school system yet the problem still exists. Every single student has the right to a safe and violence-free school. Despite having a well thought out policy Sherrard Schools still has to deal with bullying. We can do this together by shining light on these incidents when they occur and bring the issue home to parents and family members willing to do the hard work of dealing with these issues at home and at school. Enforcement of heavy consequences is needed in these cases and I stand strongly for zero-tolerance enforcement against any form of bullying whether the incident is discriminatory (skin color, religion, gender, etc.) or not.Parents have a natural right to direct the moral upbringing and education of their children, as well as the duty to protect their children’s physical and mental health. These rights and duties are deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition. Congress should confirm that parental rights are fundamental rights, in order to ensure that federal government policies never overrule them except for the most compelling and particularized of reasons under law. The presumption must always be that mothers and fathers know and love their children best.In order to ensure that every child is successful in school, we must provide options, ensure transparency and engage families in the educational experience. Our school should be willingly publishing all course syllabuses, materials and a list of available library books online. Our school board can and should set age-appropriate standards when it comes to sexual content in the school library and curriculum. Also parents should be encouraged to participate in classroom settings and be allowed to share their own professional work experiences with students during instructional time regardless of future emergency orders. Furthermore all school board meetings can and should be available online; ensuring this becomes a priority in the 2023-24 school year is a must.

Parents Defending Education is a Virginia-based national organization pushing anti-civil rights efforts in school districts around the country. Their president, Nicole Neily, also spoke at the June 2022 Awake event. Neily has worked closely with the Leadership Institute. Parents Defending Education is funded by the Koch family and dark money connected to rightwing legal activist Leonard Leo.
School districts where these organizations have been involved include Barrington D220, Oswego D308, Niles Township High School D219 (and feeder elementary school districts, including Fairview D72, and library board in Lincolnwood), Wheaton-Warrenvile CUSD200, Lyons Township High School D204, Downers Grove High School D99, New Trier Township High School D203, Westmont D201, Evanston D65 and others. (Awake IL alone has endorsed in 45 school districts.)The Leadership Institute is the primary institution training conservatives to run for public office in the US (and beyond); many prominent US ultra-conservative political figures were trained by LI, including Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell. They have held two trainings in Illinois this election cycle, one in September 2022 in Des Plaines and another in January 2023 in Itasca, partnering with the local Moms for Liberty chapters and Awake Illinois on both. School board candidates from Westmont D201, Huntley D158, Lyons Township HSD 204, Oregon D220, Oswego D308, Wheaton-Warrenville CUSD 200 attended Leadership Institute trainings. On March 23, 2023, Illinois Federation for Children PAC spent $59,000 to support Paul Vallas for Mayor of Chicago. IFC PAC chair Nate Hoffman is a frequent attendee of Vallas campaign events. You can read more details on the DeVos-Vallas connection here. According to FAIR’s website, they were hiring consultants in the fall of 2021 at $250/hour. They are not, however, a registered non-profit, but a project of a donor advised fund, United Charitable, and there is no public information about how they are structured or funded beyond that.FAIR (Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism) is a national group which opposes all types of anti-racism initiatives in education and other policy areas and have been especially active in “anti-CRT” demagoguery. They are also explicitly transphobic. Founding directors include Megyn Kelly (formerly of Fox News) and Christopher Rufo. (Rufo is not currently on the board.) FAIR says they oppose book banning, but, in fact, their website says: “We believe that parents/guardians have the right to advocate for or against particular books being included in school and classroom libraries and curricula,” in other words they support efforts to ban books in schools and libraries.

Numerous national extremist organizations supporting anti-public school, anti-equality policies and activity have been organizing in Illinois leading up to the April 4, 2023 local elections, including for school boards and libraries.
In summer 2022, Awake IL held a fundraising event featuring Corey DeAngelis the most prominent AFC spokesperson as a keynote speaker, also speaking on the panel was Paul Vallas, current Chicago mayoral candidate; and a leader from the rightwing, anti-LGBTQ+ national parent group Parents Defending Education, Nicole Neily (see below).Wirepoints is run by Ted Dabrowski, the former vice-president of Illinois Policy Institute. Dabrowski also serves on the board of New Trier Neighbors, a community organization promoting book banning, and opposing diversity, equity and inclusion programming and support for gender non-conforming students in both New Trier Township HSD 203 and in nearby Evanston. Dabrowski spoke at the Awake-Leadership Institute school board candidate training in January 2023 and appeared in a video being interviewed by Shannon Adcock in October 2022.

Moms for America Action has endorsed 13 candidates in Illinois for school board along with numerous others for library and village boards. Many of the endorsed candidates are also endorsed by a local organization We the Parents of Illinois based in Lockport, Homer Glen and Crest Hill.The Moms for Liberty DuPage County chair, Shannon Adcock, is the founder and leader of Awake IL, and a failed school board candidate in Indian Prairie D204 in the 2021 election cycle.

Awake IL, formed in June 2021, is based in Naperville but works with parents and community members in other suburban Chicago communities. Their initial focus on anti-covid mitigation strategies broadened to opposing diversity, equity, and inclusion programming, age-appropriate sex ed, and supporting book bans and school privatization, but their focus is anti-LGBTQ+ equality, promoting transphobic and homophobic activity online and off.
This isn’t a comprehensive resource of what’s happening, but we hope it’s a place to start for voters and community members researching the candidates on their ballots.FAIR’s Illinois chapter coordinator Carrie Mendoza is the wife of Myles Mendoza, former president of Empower Illinois, the group that led the effort to create Illinois’ voucher program (and currently benefits from administering the program as a voucher middleman org that skims millions off the top of the voucher funds they distribute). The former Illinois lobbyist for Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children (see below) Nate Hoffman is a member of FAIR’s board of advisors. The Moms for Liberty Cook County chair, Helen Levinson, who also leads a local organization Niles Township Accountability Council (NTAC) that was renamed Awake IL Niles Township in the summer of 2022, is supporting at least two candidates in Niles Township HSD219 and actively involved in the elementary school district Fairview D72 race. NTAC won seats on the D72 board in 2021. Levinson is also vice president for Awake IL. The Heritage Foundation is a five-decade old, right-wing think tank, and Heritage Action for America is its organizing and political arm. Heritage has funding and ties to the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Bradley Foundation, and the Walton family.New Trier Neighbors was formed as Parents of New Trier and instigated one of the earliest attacks on DEI education in Illinois, in 2017, a campaign which involved Parents of New Trier, Dabrowksi’s Wirepoints, the Illinois Policy Institute and Dan Proft, and played a role in the 2017 school board elections in D203. The film by a New Trier parent New Trier: Tip of the Spear documents these events in detail.

Turning Point USA is a far-right youth group that organizes on college campuses and also establishes high school chapters. They sponsored an event on Feb 25, 2022 in McHenry County partnering with another national organization Moms for America (see below).The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is an Illinois-based think tank funded by Koch, Bradley and Uihlein money. IPI is the affiliate of the national State Policy Network, and is known for its role in the anti-union Janus decision. IPI is a major supporter of Illinois’ voucher program. IPI featured Awake IL board member Steve Lucie on their website until summer 2021 when they were tagged in a discussion of Lucie’s violent rhetoric.

The chair of the PAC, Nate Hoffman, served as a lobbyist for AFC in Springfield from February 2022 through January 2023, to lobby for the extension and expansion of Illinois’ K-12 school voucher program. He previously lobbied for Empower Illinois (See the entry on FAIR above for more about Empower.) Currently, he is registered as a lobbyist for Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd.
Breakthrough Ideas is an Illinois-based organization run by former state representative Jeanne Ives. Ives has endorsed a slate of candidates running in Wheaton-Warrenville D200, due to their pro-book-ban and anti-transgender student positions. The slate’s PAC has received more than $24,000 in donations including from Ives’ supporters. The majority of money comes from donors tied to Christian private schools, several of which are major recipients of money from the Illinois K-12 school voucher program.

Moms for America is connected to Mike Flynn and organized rallies for the insurrectionist January 6th attack on the US Capitol, and runs the National School Boards Leadership Council, which opposes services for English-language learners and promotes exclusion of students with disabilities. The Moms for America candidate questionnaire asks about comprehensive sex education; diversity, equity and inclusion programs; social-emotional learning; Title IX protections and support for transgender students. A Donald Trump-connected organization America First Works has funded Moms for America in recent years.
The 1776 Project PAC is a New York-based PAC that is also primarily funded by Dick Uihlein via his Restoration PAC. Criteria for endorsement include whether a candidates opposes Critical Race Theory; diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; social-emotional learning and Critical Gender Theory.The Leadership Institute has close ties to and funding from the national Republican Party, the Koch brothers, the Heritage Institute and the State Policy Network.

A current Evanston D65 candidate is described on the FAIR website as a chapter leader in July 2022 appearing at an event with the DeVos lobbyist Hoffman. She is also featured in a FAIR video linked to their website. Her position was also reported in the Pioneer Press in October 2022, but she said recently she is no longer involved with the group.They have attacked Evanston D65 on issues of race and gender as well as New Trier D203. They attended Evanston High School D202 events in the fall of 2021 to disrupt affinity group activities for parents. The 1776 Project PAC has endorsed 18 school board candidates in Illinois including slates in Oswego D308 and Barrington D220. (See list here; original here.) Illinois Policy PAC reported spending $48,000 to oppose Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson in March 2023. Most of the PACs funding is from a major donor to Paul Vallas, Arthur Margulis, and John Tillman, who runs IPI and a network of associated shell non-profits.Restoration PAC is part of a group of political and policy organizations funded by billionaire Dick Uihlein, one of the largest funders of Republican candidates and associated causes in the US currently. The PAC funded numerous Republican candidates and far-right organizations in the 2022 election cycle, including a $13,000 contribution to Awake IL to campaign against the Worker Rights Amendment on the ballot in Illinois. Heritage Action was involved in training community members in Lincolnwood in the fall of 2022 to attempt to ban books at the Lincolnwood Public Library. That training was led by regional director for Heritage Action in the Chicago-area Matt Crouch, who has been meeting regularly with community members in Niles Township since last fall. Breakthrough Ideas (see below) is featuring Matt Crouch as a speaker at an event in Glen Ellyn on March 14, 2022 about how to take control of school boards to advance an extremist agenda, the McCLean County GOP is featuring Matt Crouch at an event with another speaker from the Heritage Foundation in Normal on March 18, 2022 to discuss “the racial prejudice that comes from the application of critical race theory in K-12 schools.”American Federation for Children (AFC), founded and funded by Betsy DeVos to promote anti-public school legislation and policies, created an Illinois-based PAC in March 2022, Illinois Federation for Children, which spent more than $700K on Illinois elections in 2022. That PAC is primarily funded by the American Federation for Children Action Fund, which is primarily funded by Betsy DeVos and her husband, and also by Jim Walton.

Awake says they are supporting 75+ school board candidates in Illinois, and, as of March 31, 2023, posted a list of 124 (Spreadsheet here.) Awake Oswego and Awake Niles Township have endorsements listed on their websites. The Awake Illinois PAC, chaired by Shannon Adcock, had $100 cash on hand as of March 11, 2023.
Awake IL president and Moms for Liberty DuPage Co chair Shannon Adcock attended and spoke at an anti-transgender-rights Heritage Foundation conference in January 2023.A Koch-brothers-funded national lobbying and political organization, which, according to Influence Watch, “is among the top 25 largest political spenders in the United States and is often the largest spending organization that is not a political action committee.“ Americans for Prosperity has also received funding from the DeVos family. Americans for Prosperity has an Illinois chapter, and their grassroots organizer has been scheduling events in Oswego in recent weeks (Village Grind, Cristina’s) and canvassing for candidates in Oswego D308. The K-12 district has been at the center of culture war debates over school library books and classroom discussions dealing with racism, gender identity and sexuality. In a sign of the discord, nine candidates were clamoring for four seats on the school board. Top, left to right, Dave Long, Amanda “Amy” Erkenswick, Spencer Garrett, Erik Hjerpe, and bottom, left to right, David Sohmer, Julie Kulovits and Anjali Bharadwa are running for three available 4-year seats on the Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 school board in the April 4 election.School board incumbents and their allies opposed limiting access to books that feature LGBTQ+ characters and deferred to librarians in curating materials. The nearly 12,000-student district has an opt-out process for parents to excuse teens from materials they find objectionable. But the four-person slate favored another approach: an opt-in system. Garrett, Erkenswick, Sohmer and Hobbs first showed up to District 200 school board meetings last year to raise objections to “Gender Queer,” an illustrated memoir by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe. The book, which the American Library Association named the most challenged title of 2021, is available in high school libraries.

“The fact that every student would want to see materials that represent their experience, whether they’re gay, straight, transsexual, still deciding, I think that’s very reasonable,” Hjerpe said.The high-profile race was one of several suburban school board battles that attracted first-time candidates, an infusion of money and attention from outside groups.

Critical race theory, a university-level academic discipline that examines how racism is embedded within legal and social systems, is not taught within District 200 schools. But several slate candidates still broached the topic during the campaign. They also criticized the district’s equity initiatives, particularly implicit bias training for teachers.
School board incumbents in Wheaton Warrenville District 200 held their ground against a well-funded slate of candidates in one of the most polarizing races leading up to Tuesday’s election.Four challengers – Spencer Garrett, Amy Erkenswick, David Sohmer and Kimberly Hobbs – campaigned together under the banner of “parental rights” for majority control of the board.The slate candidates believe parents ought to have a greater say over what is taught in public schools and perceive “ideological issues” in the district’s curriculum.

Awake Illinois, a Naperville group that has pushed back against mask mandates and called Gov. J.B. Pritzker “a groomer” for signing a controversial law updating sex education standards in K-12 schools, also endorsed Garrett, Erkenswick, Sohmer and Hobbs.

Incumbents Julie Kulovits and Dave Long emerged from the crowded field with 8,040 and 6,888 votes, respectively, according to unofficial totals as of 11 p.m. Tuesday. Erkenswick led newcomer Erik Hjerpe for third place by a margin of just 61 votes.

“I don’t believe in showing partiality in any way in the classroom and the district. We should treat all people the same. With that said, regarding the word ‘equity,’ it gives, just the word itself, gives me great concern,” Garrett said. “We should not lower standards and expectations.”