Edwatch, a controversial conservative education watchdog group, announced that its operations will close at the end of the year. Founded as the Maple River Education Coalition in the late 1990s, the group was an incubator for the political career of Rep. Michele Bachmann and drew the ire of elected officials in at least three political parties. The group was pro-gun, anti-homosexuality and opposed to federal intervention in local education.
“Twelve years ago the Maple River Education Coalition was born around the center island in my kitchen,” wrote Renee Doyle, Edwatch’s president in a statement. “Today I am announcing that EdWatch is closing its doors. We do this with a deep sense of accomplishment and a conviction that, while the work is never complete, the time for this change is right.”
Doyle started EdWatch along with Julie Quist, who is now a Bachmann staffer and is wife to Allen Quist, a perennial religious right candidate who lost a bid for the Republican primary to challenge Rep. Tim Walz earlier this year.
Doyle said that many of the members of the EdWatch board have moved on to bigger things. “However, as the peril to our nation has increased, and because the battleground is much broader today than when EdWatch was created, we have each been called to other, expanded areas of duty,” she said. “Many of us now serve under or are publically-elected officials, or we are lobbyists, writers, speakers or everything mentioned. We sense the urgency of the hour in which we live. For this reason we have chosen to bring the corporation to a close to concentrate on our individual responsibilities to this nation.”
In addition to Quist and Doyle, other members of the board at its closing included Michael Chapman, who founded the American Heritage Research, which serves to “expose worldview bias and the censorship of America’s true Christian heritage within mainstream public school curriculum;” Dr. Karen Effrem, who will be launching Education Liberty Watch in 2011; Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America which is a right-wing version of the NRA, and David Thompson, a conservative radio host who was elected to the Minnesota Senate in November.
EdWatch’s web site describes Education Liberty Watch as “a new organization with much the same mission” and says updates about the new group will be posted on the EdWatch site.
Doyle concluded the letter to supporters by saying, “Our work is not done. We all continue as watchmen on the wall and gatekeepers of a free society. May the Lord bless us all as we continue to stand as truth-seeking and freedom-loving Americans!”
During EdWatch’s 12 years, the group gained quite a bit of notoriety. It’s most famous graduate is Bachmann, who got involved with the group prior to her winning election to the state Senate in 2000.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura had strong words for the group in 1999: “The ‘Maple River Group,’ that thinks UFOs are landing next month. Well they do! They think it’s some big government federal conspiracy! “
The group criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2006 for “promotion of homosexual agenda.”
“Homosexual advocacy groups are being funded by grants from the state Department of Health under his authority,” wrote EdWatch in a letter about Pawlenty. “Additionally, under Governor Pawlenty’s supervision, his administration is actively promoting the indoctrination of students into a homosexual worldview and value system.”
It also opposed changing history curriculum that portrayed Christopher Columbus in anything but a positive light, opposed the teaching of evolution without mentioning the Christian story of creation, and promoted science curriculum that denied the existence of global warming.