Article published March 22, 2022
By Dorothy Maired Brown
Manitowoc, WI — Three school board candidates in this working class city in northeastern Wisconsin, have numerous ties to organizations known for union-busting, privatization and racism. One of the candidates gloats in his candidate profile he once worked for Sheriff Joe Arapio well known for torturing prisoners in Arizona. The general election for the School Board is April 5, 2022.
The three right-wing candidates for the Manitowoc School Board call themselves “Two Matts and a Tony.” They are: Tony Vlastelica, Matthew D. Phipps and Matthew Spaulding. All three have shared content from their social media that supports the Republican Party of Manitowoc County and a variety of other organizations many claim are hostile to workers, people of color, the LGBTQ community and women. And these organizations, many funded by the Bradley Foundation (Act 10, “welfare reform,” right-to-work-for-less), all have as top priorities the goal of destroying public education.
Educate Don’t Indoctrinate is a Manitowoc group run by John Cress. This group is connected to and/or partially funded by right-wing think tanks such as the Bradley Foundation similar to ones such as No Better Friend Corp. The Educate Not Indoctrinate website is essentially a clearinghouse with action items and resources to attack public education. The group is also promoting Vlastelica, Phipps and Spaulding. (https://educatedontindoctrinate.org/). Educate Not Indoctrinate is also opposing diversity initiatives at the Manitowoc Public Library as well. (https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2017/05/31/bradley-foundation-funds-right-wing-media-machine/). Members of Educate Don’t Indoctrinate have sponsored right-wing speakers from the Bradley funded Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) at the Lighthouse Inn in Two Rivers, Wisconsin (Manitowoc County). Members of the group and those affiliated with it, according to multiple sources, have menaced present school board members at meetings forcing the board to move to Zoom meetings at times for safety concerns, sent board members hostile messages, distributed untrue information to the public and media among other actions. Educate Don’t Indoctrinate
The three right-wing candidates Phipps, Vlastelica and Spaulding, all are connected to the Republican Party of Manitowoc County. (https://www.facebook.com/ManitowocGOP/) which is Chaired by Donald W Zimmer. Also, on the party’s and the individual’s Facebook pages and other social media, there are connections with various right-wing organizations and individuals who are extreme opponents of public education supporting charter schools, opposing safety protocols, attacking curriculum based in critical thinking and historical truth. The party (often in tandem with Educate Don’t Indoctrinate) has brought to Manitowoc County (many speaking at the Lighthouse Inn in Two Rivers) extreme right wing speakers such as now gubernatorial candidate Kevin Nicholson of No Better Friend Corp., various speakers from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), the legal entity for the Bradley Foundation. WILL frequently sues school districts across Wisconsin, submits numerous and costly FOIA requests that various observers claim are purposely focused on taking up the time and resources of school districts etc.
The Manitowoc Republican party on its Facebook page supports/promotes a wide array of what many observers claim are racist, anti-worker right wing individuals and organizations include Shae Sortwell, Ron Johnson, Andre Jacques, Robert Ziegelbauer, Glenn Grothman, attacks immigrants, attacks the Black Superintendent of Manitowoc Public Schools, and encourages its members to support right-wing organizations such as No Left Turn In Education, Educate Don’t Indoctrinate, No Better Friend Corp. and WILL. They also oppose equity, diversity and inclusion committees for the city and county of Manitowoc, opposed the first Black city councilor Mr. Aaron Bailey and oppose “CRT, communism, Black Lives Matter and Marxism.”
The three right-wing candidates for Manitowoc School Board, Vlastelica, Phipps and Spaulding have shared content from and/or supported the Republican Party of Manitowoc County.
Tony Vlastelica has admitted he participated in the January 6, 2021 violent insurrection at the U.S. capitol which was led by white supremacists. He frequently uses the term “patriot” etc. on his blog and Facebook page which are commonly known as code words for white supremacists. Vlastelica either home schools and/or has his own children in private schools. He also claims to run a million dollar company on his website. (https://manitowocconstitutionalist.com/tony-vlastelica/)
Matthew D. Phipps owns a construction company and also on his blog and social media talks of “free-thinking,” “defending our home,” being a “constitutionalist” and a “patriot.” (https://manitowocconstitutionalist.com/matthew-phipps/)
Matthew Spaulding worked in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and once worked for Sheriff Joe Arapio who, Spaulding writes on his blog, was “America’s toughest sheriff.” (https://manitowocconstitutionalist.com/matthew-spaulding/) Many progressive organizations have documented that Arapio tortured those at the jail he was responsible for. He forced prisoners to stand in underwear in over 100 degree heat for hours without water, attacked immigrants and engaged in other human rights violations with Black and Brown “inmates” specific targets. Arapio was convicted on various charges but pardoned by Donald Trump. Was Spaulding a witness or even a participant in these crimes and human rights violations? Does he agree with the torture Arapio inflicted? (https://longreads.com/2017/08/28/the-collected-crimes-of-sheriff-joe-arpaio/ – https://logicalliberalism.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/joe-arpaio-pardon-10-crimes-arpaio-committed/)
In reading the biographies and programs of the three right-wing candidates, there is nothing about the largest cuts to public education in state history in 2011 under former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other austerity that has put districts such as Manitowoc in dire straits forcing referendums etc. They say nothing about Act 10 and other austerity attacking the public sector in Wisconsin which has devastated communities across the state including Manitowoc. They say nothing about how the plant closings in Manitowoc where thousands of union workers toiled for decades, has devastated the community.
Various sources claim that Vlastelica, Phipps and Spaulding programs are essentially to oppose CRT, oppose mask wearing and other safety protocols while engaging in anti-worker and racist attacks against Black Lives Matter, equity etc. According to witnesses of their events, the candidates oppose the Black Superintendent in Manitowoc and are running against and opposing two women on the school board that support equity, diversity and inclusion.
Response to this article posted March 23, 2022 to the Republican Party of Manitowoc County Facebook page:
The article published by the “Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement” and authored by Dorothy Maired Brown, attacks Manitowoc School Board candidates Vlastelica, Spaulding, and Phipps. It is a scurrilous document. Every word of the article is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’; with one exception.
When she writes about the Republican Party of Manitowoc County, the author states: “They also oppose …CRT (Critical Race Theory), communism, Black Lives Matter, and Marxism.”
Those words are absolutely correct. The Republican Party of Manitowoc County does oppose each of those monstrous, murderous, atheistic, anti-American, poisonous ideologies and their associated organizations, and will as long as our county party exists.
Donald W. Zimmer, Chairman, Republican Party of Manitowoc County