Taxpayers for Sensible School Bonds is the group behind the Vote No campaign against the proposed $190 million bond for Rapid City Area Schools. Another group has emerged, calling themselves Rapid City Citizens for Progress. The name of this group is also a misnomer; they have partnered with an outside agitator whom they have brought to Rapid City specifically to help defeat the bond issue. This individual’s name is Paul Dorr, and he absolutely does not represent Rapid City values.
Paul Dorr is an ultra-conservative Christian who runs a business called Copperhead Consulting which he runs out of the small town of Ocheyedan, Iowa. His stated goal is the destruction of public schools. In his own words, he has “…a deep, passionate abhorrence of government schools… I’m dedicating my life to see them, and to pass the vision on to my children, and my children’s children, to see that institution one day be gone.” He has repeatedly said that public schools are “…a sin against God” and has accused public schools of being the conduit used to drive the sexual revolution. He runs a religious group called “Rescue the Perishing”, with a corresponding Facebook group and website he calls a “crisis center and pro-family movement.” Dorr’s specialty is defeating school bond issues, and our friends at Rapid City Citizens for Progress have partnered with him to bring his disinformation campaign to Rapid City. He uses disinformation, cheap tricks, and theatrics to try to divide communities and defeat bonds.
Last August, Dorr was convicted of destroying – in classic fascist fashion – LGBTQ books he had checked out from a northern Iowa library by burning them. Back in 2011, Dorr was hired by an anti-opt out group in Yankton. Our friends over at Madville Times detailed Dorr’s resume’ at that time. Since then, it has become much more impressive – or frightening, depending on your perspective. He claimed he had worked on over 80 campaigns, and American Public Media was able to confirm 63 votes in 46 different school districts. Of those, 44 of them were defeated, or about 70 percent. That’s a pretty impressive success rate, especially in small town America. Dorr’s entire push consists of the same half-truths and distortions we’ve already seen from Taxpayers for Sensible School Bonds – now, he has partnered with this other group (who has close ties to the first, I might add). Dorr comes in to a town he doesn’t live in, spreads his lies and hatred, divides the town against each other, and then leaves, and the town is never the same.
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This is something we don’t need in Rapid City. Dorr’s ultra-conservative, divisive rhetoric would leave scars on this town – scars that would take years to heal. He is interested not in keeping government small and manageable, but in the destruction of everything government stands for. His tactics have been known since the early 2000s. He will hammer on recent test scores to make the district look weak academically, twist enrollment numbers to make the district look like it is shrinking, hammer on property taxes, which are already extremely unpopular in the state, and distort per pupil costs to make it seem that more taxes are being paid when they are not.
Don’t believe the hype. We as Rapid Citians know better than this.
We know what our community needs; we don’t need some outside agitator coming in and questioning the veracity of our decisions. The fact that the same old agitators are organizing under several new names and using these tactics is repulsive. Dorr and his values do not represent who we are as Rapid Citians or what we know about the current and future needs of this district. Tell Taxpayers for Sensible School Bonds, Rapid City Citizens for Progress, and South Dakota Citizens for Liberty that people like Paul Dorr have no place in our town. Show them that book burnings are unconscionable. Show them that ultra conservative Christian views have no place setting public policy, especially when it comes to the needs of our students. We know what we as Rapid Citians need. We need new schools. We need to provide a comprehensive, 21st century education for our students. We need to provide for the future of Rapid City’s economic success, which is inexorably linked to the success of our schools.
Paul Dorr, you and those who brought you here are on notice: you are not welcome here. Your tactics will not work here. We are Rapid City, and we are Rapid City strong. You cannot divide us. We will not allow you to.
Sean Bradley is a teacher and a lifelong Rapid City resident and attended Rapid City Area Schools.
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