After the Columbus Dispatch exposed how teachers at Little Dreamers, Big Believers daycare forced preschool children to submit public comment to protest fracking around the Wayne National forest, criticism from the community has come pouring in.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the teachers told children to make drawings of their opposition to leasing in the Wayne. The children characterized it this way to the Dispatch:
“The children, whose ages range from 3 to 5 years, gave all kinds of reasons for defending the forest. Trees are pretty. They are good for climbing and spotting bird nests. And they help humans breathe.”
The teachers even went so far as to submit their drawings as “formal public comment” to the Bureau of Land Management, although what exactly they are protesting is unclear as the June lease sale will not include any minerals for sale in the Wayne. One day after the story ran, a letter to the editor was published by a local resident of Columbus stating that he was “disgusted” that teachers are forcing their personal views on kids. As Michael Federer from the Columbus area said,
“These are children ages 3 to 5. I am disgusted with another example of “teachers” (I use the word loosely) manipulating children to make points about something that the children can’t begin to understand. One teacher said, “This world belongs to them, their day is almost here.” Is she kidding?”
Ohio State Representative Andy Thompson, who represents the Marietta Unit of the Wayne National Forest and supports leasing in the forest, told EID,
“So now we’re taking our cues on energy policy from kindergarteners? I believe educators should focus on helping children to master the three Rs, rather than trying to impose their political beliefs on these unsuspecting tykes.”
If that isn’t bad enough, these anti-fracking teachers are trying to force children to protest funding from going to some of the poorest school districts in the state – schools that “hope to see funds from the Wayne National Forest leases”. Prohibiting leasing of federal minerals would directly hurt local schools in Rep. Thompson’s district. As the Parkersburg News & Sentinel reported, schools in Appalachia are in desperate need of support from the leasing of federal minerals in the Wayne Forest. Frontier Local Schools’ Treasurer Lee Howard explained exactly why that is, stating,
“The Wayne does not pay regulator property taxes like private landowners. So we only get a stipend from them from they choose to provide as payment in lieu of taxes. But if they were to develop horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing connecting private and federal lands in our district, we could benefit not only from royalties but also the value of utility construction.”
As EID has pointed out time and time again, the Wayne National Forest is not contiguous; it’s a patchwork of acreages that includes private lands and minerals throughout, which makes gaining access to federal minerals for subsurface development critical. Without access to these federal minerals adjacent private minerals are not able to be developed fully.
In short, Ohio schools have much to gain from fracking and especially in areas surrounding the Wayne National Forest. Sadly, it appears that these preschool and kindergarten children are being fed misinformation despite the fact the Bureau of Land Management found that the forest would in fact incur “no significant impact” from federal mineral development. As Ohio Representative Thompson rightly said, teachers should be educating our children, using facts, not misguided and personal political ideologies.