Chuck Basye turned his life around by joining the United States Marines.
If you ask him, he will tell you that his days at St. Charles High School in the 1970s were defined by skipping school and staying up late. Just one art credit short of graduation, Basye dropped out. He started Marine boot camp 10 days later, a decision he said his parents supported “with no hesitation.”
It was a transformative choice that would lead him into a life of public service. In 1984, Basye began a 27-year career at the Federal Aviation Administration as an air traffic controller. He left and worked at Lockheed Martin for a few years but returned to the FAA in 2008. He finished a maximum eight-year term as a Republican state representative in December.
Today, he works as a field representative for U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a role he started in January. Basye is also seeking another leadership role: a spot on the Columbia School Board.
Basye said he decided to run to provide conservatives, traditionalists and independent thinkers with an opportunity to see their views reflected in district leadership. While he thinks running for School Board shouldn't be politicized, he maintains the current board lacks political diversity.
"I want to be a voice for the people that feel like they have no voice right now," he said.
Basye entered the race late after winning a lawsuit against the district over a dispute on candidacy filing procedures. He thinks the district's actions to prevent him from filing were politically motivated.
"What they did to me, that just shows you that they did not want Chuck Basye as a candidate," he said.
A representative legacy
Basye's statehouse career was defined by the six years he spent on the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. He spent 3½ years as its chair.
He was a proponent of charter schools and school choice, proposed an amendment to prevent transgender athletes from competing in school competitions and advocated for children with disabilities and their families.
He said he is a person guided by "hard work, faith and certainly family" and makes it a point that his accomplishments in office were not done alone.
"Anytime you hear somebody talking about, 'I passed this, I passed that,' nobody does it by themselves," Basye said.
Scrutiny marked some of Basye's last years in office, particularly after a confrontation with Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis. Mackey, who is gay, made national news with his impassioned denunciation of Basye's anti-transgender sports amendment.
"That got blown way out of proportion," Basye said. "They act like he dressed me down. He didn't."
Basye also clashed repeatedly with Columbia Public Schools on issues such as COVID-19 masking and his interpretation of critical race theory, which he said the district is "pushing" on children, including preschoolers.
CRT is an academic framework maintaining that racism in American society is systemic and goes beyond issues of individual bias and prejudice. It also teaches that race is a social construct.
Basye sees CRT as "putting some children and teachers in a box based solely on the color of their skin," labeling them as "victims" or "oppressors."
"That is absolute hogwash," he said. "It's not true at all."
Critical race theory is not taught in the district, spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said. Basye said the district is lying.
"They're saying they're not doing the CRT. They, in fact, are — they just don't call it that," he said.
Turbulent relationship with CPS
A look at Basye’s career and Facebook account demonstrate a longstanding antagonistic relationship with district leadership.
Following public reaction to the Columbia Values Diversity breakfast in January, Basye called for Baumstark and Superintendent Brian Yearwood's dismissal, referring to them on Facebook as "major problems."
He also called for Yearwood to resign in 2021 over an Advanced Placement U.S. history assignment at Hickman High School that included rapper Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video. Basye found the video inappropriate.
More recently, Basye criticized board member Katherine Sasser, who chose not to participate in February's meeting. Sasser, who has a transgender child, cited the emotional toll of proposed anti-LGBTQ state legislation. She testified against several anti-transgender bills, including sports and health care bans, in Jefferson City on Jan. 31, she said on Twitter.
"Break out the violins, the radicals are misrepresenting proposed legislation once again," Basye posted to Facebook after the meeting. He also wrote that "Sasser should resign immediately" in the comments.
Two days later, he called on people attacking Sasser online to stop.
Basye takes issue with the National Education Association and its local affiliate, the Columbia Missouri National Education Association. "The NEA, they're a political force, but I just don't have any respect for them," Basye said.
He declined an invitation to CMNEA's candidate forum Feb. 7. When asked why, he said CMNEA is a "dishonest" and "terrible organization" that cares more about political power than kids. He expressed this before on his Facebook page, at one point calling its members "proven, proficient liars."
"The only people that follow that NEA forum are the radical NEA members, and they eat that stuff up," Basye said in an interview.
Despite his history with district leadership and the teachers' union, Basye said he is open to working beyond political disagreements, adding he'll "work with anybody."
"I might not agree with them, but I'd be willing to listen and talk things out," he said. "It needs to be a two-way street, too, they need to work with me as well."
Pam Anderson has a decades-long friendship with Basye and is his longtime deputy treasurer. Despite disagreements, she said she's found him to be "a very honorable person."
"I found him to be very honest," Anderson said. "Total disclosure, we don't always agree on everything, but we agree to disagree."
A 'strong-worded' presence
Social media disputes are common for Basye, whose politically fueled engagements with the public turned combative in the past few years. He said a few social media users continuously targeted him throughout his representative career.
After Basye won his final reelection race, he said he found it entertaining to become more "strong-worded" in his responses to challenging comments.
"It tended to amuse me," he said.
In Facebook disagreements, he uses profanity, mockery and “Let’s go Brandon,” a phrase popularized by mainstream conservative politicians. It stands for “F--- Joe Biden,” according to the Associated Press.
In November, he posted the full name and address of a woman who criticized him on Facebook. "I took a shot and I scored a hit," Basye said of the incident, adding that the woman's name and address were already publicly available.
Basye acknowledged how his social media posts are "immature." He said his wife "gets after me" for it.
“I will be the first to admit, I probably should not reply the way I have, especially in the last few years, but I thought my political career was over,” he said.
Days after Basye said this in an interview, he told a woman who expressed disapproval over one of his Facebook posts to "put a mask on……and leave it on for God’s sake."
If elected, Basye said he would handle the legitimate concerns of the district community in an appropriate manner but also said he won't be belittled or called names.
Basye worries that the district's high school graduates aren’t prepared for life.
"That's a big concern of mine, and I come from experience," he said.
After dropping out of high school, Basye earned a GED certificate in 1977 while stationed at the Marine Corps' Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. He graduated from MU with a bachelor's degree in agriculture in 1991.
If elected, Basye’s priority is to improve the district’s academic proficiency, particularly of low-income students. He thinks district leaders don’t talk enough about this.
Low academic performance can be turned around “rather easily," he said. Schools are focused on "stuff that doesn't need to be worried about right now," he said, referring to the district’s efforts to teach students about diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I just don’t think this push for this social justice, and these other things, is necessary at all,” he said.
Basye wants district students to "spend more time on the basics," which are English language arts, science, mathematics and history, he said.
He also has bones to pick when it comes to district transparency and accountability. He thinks the board's "inner workings," such as its fine print and budget items, are hidden from parents.
If elected, Basye is eager to see how the board works and to ask questions on behalf of the public.
Jon Ratliff, a friend of Basye and the executive director of the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee, said parents haven't had an advocate on the Columbia board in a while.
He said Basye isn't an "NEA hack" but, rather, "a fighter."
"You take a Marine grandpa who's ready to fight for parents and kids, I think that's what we need right now," Ratliff said. "Chuck wants to step up and just make a difference in that regard, and he's gonna ruffle some feathers."
Parents, teachers and students came to Basye with complaints about the district over his years as a representative, he said. However, Basye said they chose to be anonymous over fear of retaliation.
“That stuff should not be happening in the United States of America,” Basye said.
Basye and his wife, Rhonda, live in Rocheport with their two dogs. Their three sons graduated from the district in the '90s and early 2000s. Two of their grandchildren are enrolled in the district. Rhonda is a kitchen manager at Smithton Middle School.
"My wife, she still thinks I'm crazy for doing this," Basye said. "But my dad said, you know, you gotta go for it."
A photo mug on Basye's desk in Jefferson City shows him smiling with two of his sons, his grandson and his father, Ben, 95, who is wearing a blue ball cap with gold letters that spell “NAVY." The elder Basye spent 42 years in the service.
A significant role model for Basye, his father participated in local and county school boards in St. Charles for several years in the 1970s.
"He was kind of a lone voice for his beliefs," Basye said. "That's kind of my intent."
Some 50 years later, Basye is determined to do the same in the Columbia district. He said that if elected, he thinks most votes with the board will be 6-1. He's OK with that.
"I think everybody deserves the right to be heard."