Hi. It’s us, the people behind Together for Public Schools.
We’re a group of your friends and neighbors here in WCASD who are passionate about public education.
Like you, we have families and jobs and a million things to do every day, so we KNOW that it’s impossible to pay attention to everything happening in our school district. And trust us, we have our fair share of complaints about our school district too. We know WCASD isn’t perfect and we vent about it as much as you probably do.
But we feel strongly that a community working together WITH its schools - not against them - is the best way to improve education for all students.
So our coalition of parents and community members works together, doing our best to stay on top of what’s happening in WCASD in the hopes we can keep you – our community – engaged and informed.
You’ve probably (hopefully?) heard that there is a school board election this year. The primary election is on May 16. Not to sound dramatic, but the school board has massive influence over what happens not just in our schools, but in our entire community. You don’t want to sit this one out. The school board is responsible not just for curriculum, but also for policies, employment, facilities, programs, and all aspects of administering our schools. As part of that, they determine the budget and they have the power to levy taxes to fund education in our community.
And it impacts YOU, whether you are a parent, student, teacher, taxpayer, business owner, or anyone living or working in our school district.
When we saw that a local political action committee (PAC) named Back to Basics West Chester was looking for candidates in this year’s WCASD school board election, naturally we were interested. The PAC’s platform claimed to be about transparency, fiscal responsibility, supporting teachers, partnering with parents… all things that we love and that sound good.
But there were a bunch of red flags.
The PAC was promising candidates that it would do all the work and would provide money and a platform, even going so far as to say that “the only thing the candidates will need to do is show up” for in-person events. Something felt off about that.
And then we saw that the people running the PAC and supporting it were familiar names, associated with the same movement and cast of characters that has disrupted our school district with:
A belief that parents need to fight against public schools and teachers because they are working to “indoctrinate” and “groom” our students,
A lawsuit claiming our school board members committed child abuse by voting for a pandemic health and safety plan,
Unfounded claims that our teachers were making white kids “feel bad” by teaching an accurate accounting of the history,
Claims that mental health resources and social emotional learning are part of a plan to spread Marxist ideals,
Calls for book bans that frequently target books representing our vulnerable LGBTQ+ students,
Scapegoating of teachers with claims that pandemic learning loss is the fault of the teachers union, school administrators, and our school board.
These beliefs and the groups behind them are at odds with some of our key values here at Together for Public Schools.
So we decided to take a closer look. We paid attention. We researched public records. We followed a money trail that eventually revealed that Back to Basics PAC is:
Funded by wealthy mega-donors and a network of political groups working to influence school board elections across the state,
Part of the movement that believes public schools are indoctrination zones, that has called for book bans, pushed anti-LGBTQ+ and “anti-CRT” propaganda, that claims mental health and social emotional learning are spreading Marxism, and that wants to defund public education,
Managed by paid political operatives who also happen to be key West Chester figures with a long history of bringing disruption to our school district in an effort to boost their brand and generate headlines.
We ran a series on our social media sites highlighting the political groups, funding, and people behind Back to Basics West Chester PAC.
Some of you said that it would be helpful to see the verified details and paper trail behind our claims. You made our day! We love to get into the weeds on this stuff.
So here it is… call it receipts, call it an annotated bibliography, call it a geek-out session on local politics and education policy. Dive in with us to learn how we followed the money behind Back to Basics West Chester PAC.
How to view:
If you have already seen our series on social media, feel free to scroll down to the “References and Sources” section to check our list of sources.
If you haven’t seen our series on social media, start by viewing the image gallery below. Each image has been updated with sticky notes to corresponding to items in the “References and Sources” section where you can find our source(s) for each claim.
B2B Series: Annotated
References and Sources
Back to Basics West Chester PAC was registered in Chester County in June 2022 under chairperson Rachel Langan and treasurer Donald Urbanic for the purpose of supporting local school board candidates.
Back to Basics West Chester PAC launched a website and blog in late 2022 authored primarily by PAC Chair Rachel Langan. The blog is highly critical of WCASD and has made claims that the district is covertly monitoring and spying on parents, and that a new Communications Technician may have been hired as a spy.
Back to Basic West Chester PAC’s website and social media accounts were used to recruit school board candidates with promises of money, services, a platform, and that “the only thing the candidates will need to do is show up” for in-person events.
Langan has submitted numerous Right to Know requests to WCASD that have cost the district in excess of $22,000 plus over 120 staff hours and over 120 attorney hours.
Langan attended a press event for the Parents Bill of Rights hosted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy with WCASD school director Stacey Whomsley and her prior running mate Ada Nestor.
The Parents Bill of Rights has been widely criticized for its potential to enable book bans and anti-LGBTQ policies.
Langan has received over $20,000 in payments for political consulting and research from Back to School PA PAC and Back to School USA PAC.
Back to Basics West Chester PAC received its startup funding from Back to School PA PAC.
Back to School PA PAC was founded by Paul Martino, a wealthy Bucks County venture capitalist and conservative political donor. Martino initially pledged $500,000 to fund local PACs across the state with $10,000 each. Eventually Martino donated even more than his initial pledge, both directly as well as via the Clarice for PA PAC, which was largely funded by him.
Back to School PA PAC has contributed more than $600,000 to influence school board elections in districts all across PA.
Back to School PA PAC has raised over $870,000.
Jeff Yass is a PA billionaire and political mega-donor who has been controversial for his millions of dollars of political donations which have largely centered around pushing conservative education policy in Pennsylvania.
Yass is the primary funder of Students First PAC and a key donor to the Commonwealth Childrens Choice PAC, both of which push conservative education policies in Pennsylvania.
Jeff Yass has contributed funding to both Back to School PA PAC and Back to School USA PAC, both in direct contributions as well as via Students First PAC and Commonwealth Childrens Choice PAC.
Beth Ann Rosica is the Executive Director of Back to School PA PAC.
Rosica sued to have WCASD board members removed, claiming they had committed child abuse by voting for a pandemic health and safety plan.
Rosica ran the 2021 school board campaign of Stacey Whomsley and Ada Nestor. The campaign was controversial due in large part to Nestor’s reported affiliation with QAnon.
Rosica has received over $45,000 in payments from Back to School PA PAC for management and consulting.
Back to School PA PAC contributed $18,000 to Students First WC, a local PAC that supported Ada Nestor and Stacey Whomsley’s controversial 2021 candidacy. (NOTE: Our original piece under-reported this amount as $13,000).
Back to School PA PAC, which originally claimed to be non-partisan, recently rebranded as Back to School USA, a federal level Super PAC.
Back to School USA is explicitly partisan and says it is “the Conservative Super PAC Dedicated to Education,” that it is “focused on electing conservatives from School Boards to Congress & everywhere in-between,” and that it is working to fight “the liberal teachers’ unions and special interest groups that are responsible for indoctrinating our children.”
Back to Basics WC PAC claims to “represent a variety of political ideologies, ranging from conservative to liberal, with a majority of board members ‘in the middle’”. But the money trail shows B2B PAC works for groups “focused on electing conservatives” to fight “indoctrination” in our schools.