Posts Tagged ‘Partisan school board elections’
I received this letter this morning from Nicole Toomey Davis who ran against Kim Burningham in a State School Board race last year, on the need for passing SB 224, Partisan School Board Elections. Please pass this on to everyone you know today and have them ask their House member to vote YES for SB 224
It has been several months since the frenzy of the campaign. I want you to know (again), how much your support meant to me. It was a fantastic experience, even though I didn’t win the election for SBOE #5. Thank you for your support, encouragement and friendship!
As you may have seen, the Senate just passed SB 224, Partisan School Board Elections. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the State Board of Education elections overall – I learned a great deal about the process and this may be helpful to you. If you agree with my assessment, I encourage you to reach out to your Representatives in the House (info below), and let them know that you want talented people to run for the State Board on a level playing field. I will note that the “other side” is working the email, fax and phones!
Here are my thoughts on current SBOE elections:
1) Our current system is not “non-partisan” (as is frequently stated), it is a “one party election” - and the ONLY party that is active in education politics is the “education employees party”. The “other” candidate in any education race is an independent – and independents don’t win very often. (As I frequently said when I started my campaign, I was a “lonely candidate” because none of the political parties will support non-partisan candidates!)
Here is what a party does for a candidate:
a) establish a platform
b) vet candidates to see which are most consistent with that platform
c) endorse candidates so that members and “likeminded” people don’t have to do the research themselves
d) post information about the candidate or links to candidate information on an establish “party” website that members and likeminded poeple ALREADY know about
e) provide a base of voters and donors to the candidate (due to endorsement)
f) encourage donations to the candidate
g) send out information to “members” by email and snail mail.
Now, let me tell you what the Davis Education Association did for Kim Burningham in this past election
a) established a platform – pro-teachers and pro-”association”
b) interviewed candidates (they “invite” all candidates to be interviewed by 1/2 dozen key DEA people – I didn’t know it was to be “vetted”)
c) Endorsed Kim Burningham publicly
d) Posted that endorsement on their existing and well known DEA website, which is visited by DEA members AND by other like-minded people, including OTHER (non-teacher) school district employees
(note that there are 8000 Davis School District employees, about half of them are teachers – Kim Burningham consistently gets about 24,000 votes….. DSD employees + a couple of friends = consistent victory for the union representative)
e) Provide a built in base of voters and donors for Kim (Kim sent emails to DSD employees AT SCHOOL, and the DEA sent email to DSD employees AT SCHOOL, showing the link for Kim’s fundraising to date so that DSD employees could support him!)
f) Encourage donations to the candidate (see above)
g) Send out information to “members” by email and snail mail. (DEA sent out a mailed letter to teachers AT SCHOOL endorsing Kim, stating outright lies about me – things that were known factually to be untrue by the DEA president and facts were available online -, and stridently encouraging teachers to vote for Kim B.)
My husband coined this phrase “you aren’t running in a non-partisan election, you’re running in a one-party election and YOU’RE the independent candidate”.
Let’s return school politics to a fair and balanced system. Every candidate should have the ability to have the support of a party, rather than just one candidate having that support and any other candidate being “lonely”.
In addition, as much as 20% of the electorate, IN THE ELECTION BOOTH, voting for other candidates, do NOT vote for the State Board of Education. Many people say “they don’t know who to vote for”. It is very difficult for voters to find out information about SBOE candidates, as there is no centralized place to go during election season. In the case of the District #5 election, that 20% would have reversed the final outcome.
Finally, the current system places anyone other than a candidate endorsed by the “education employees party” at a severe disadvantage. I was put on the ballot on August 1st! 94 days from campaign start to election day. Mr. Burningham had been campaigning since at least March, during all of the various conventions. Hardly a “level” playing field.
Had I known about this severe structural imbalance in the race for State Board of Education, I would NEVER have run. Only a fool would run under a system where this is NO CHANCE of success. I tell this to other talented business people who would add a lot of value to our education system. I tell them not to waste their time and money (and that of their supporters). It is a sad conclusion, and my heart aches to say it, but I had as much support as it is possible to imagine, and you and your neighbors in our district turned out, but we simply could not overcome the tremendous advantages that accrue to the “party candidate” in a one-party system (just look at Egypt and its neighbors!!!).
Let’s make a system where great, talented and dedicated people of all interests and backgrounds can declare that background (through party affiliation) and can have the support of the party of their choice in running for the State Board of Education. Politics is already completely embedded in the State Board of Education races, let’s just make sure all of the voters know it!
Please support SB 224 Partisan School Board Elections.
To reach your representatives, please visit
http://www.utah.gov/house/representatives.html (you can also fax a note to your Rep at 801-326-1544 and it will be delivered to them)
Thank you again for your support. I hope this is helpful to you (and if not, just hit the delete key ;-). If it is helpful, you are welcome to forward it on to others who may find it helpful.
In fiscal year 2011 for the state of Utah’s budget, 50% of revenues will come from state income taxes and 49.7% of expenditures by the state will go toward the education system (UT Budget Report). Billions of dollars are spent on the education of our children and yet there are those in the public who shout that education is non-partisan. Nothing with that much money at stake is non-partisan. Powerful players vie for control of those dollars. Hundreds of companies provide “vital” services to our various school districts. They in turn scream for more money because of the “tremendous good” they can do with it. However, how do we know those funds are being spent wisely to get the most bang for our buck? Where is the accountability? It’s a never ending cycle where the schools ask for money and then bites the legislative hand that feeds them. We tolerate this as the public because we’ve become accustomed, or dare I say “enculturated” into believing that “good people” run our schools and so they can do no wrong. The people who run our schools may very well be “good people” but that doesn’t mean they have the education of our children as their top priority. One look at Alpine School District’s love affair with Investigations math and the removal of the times tables and long division will clearly illustrate the lack of common sense amongst “educators” and get you questioning what their real agenda is.
One solution to this problem is to have partisan school board elections. The 15 state school board members control half the budget of Utah and individually have territory which is double the size of a state senator. There is no way they can get a message out to voters to inform them of where they stand on issues. In local school districts we have similar issues. Large areas of territory are covered in some of the mega districts like Alpine, Davis, Granite, Jordan, etc… Those school board candidates are never closely examined by voters because it’s hard to get the message out to so many people on such limited funds. It’s also an advantage to the incumbent who may rely on some name recognition to carry him/her through a close race. Partisan school board elections would mean a much smaller number of delegates elected in OUR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS would examine those candidates up close and make a decision to shrink the list of candidates down to size.
I would like to hear from you about what you think are good reasons for and against partisan school board elections. I’ve put a couple lists below. Please comment on this topic below and add any items you can think of to either list. In the future I may update the list according to some of the comments. Thank you for your help.
If your comment is not related to this topic, I will remove your comment. This should remain an easy list for the public to scan down and see the pros and cons of partisan school board elections.
Reasons against (or things some will claim):
- Education isn’t partisan so elections shouldn’t be
- We’re in the most conservative state/district and now you want to control education with partisanship?
- Party money may influence elections
- Members will be more influenced by their party politics than their constituents
- Everything involving money is partisan
- You think the NEA and UEA aren’t partisan?
- If you think schools are already conservative what are you afraid of having partisan elections? Nothing would change.
- The state history standards have a number of very liberal statements like calling health care a right and calling the constitution a “living document.” These are extremely liberal positions.
- Nobody studies the candidates for school board in elections because they are non-partisan. Making them partisan means hundreds of delegates will examine candidates closely and see who would do the best job from their party. This raises the quality of candidates making them go through a close examination within their political party.
- Having to sell yourself to delegates instead of to the public prior to a primary is much less expensive. This saves candidates time and money and allows more individuals to attempt to run for office without needing deep cash pockets right from the start.
- Control over spending large amounts of money is principle based. Partisan control helps put board members in that have a known ideology.
- We opted for representational government because “we the people” can’t examine every issue and vote on it with a good working knowledge of the issue. We elect delegates who volunteer to take the time to closely examine candidates and ensure they will represent us well. That’s how a republic functions.
- Texas did this, got a conservative majority on the state school board, and for the first time in decades created history standards that teach both sides of the story.
- State School Board Districts (15) are twice as big as State Senate Districts (29), and State School Board candidates never have the resources to even send one mailer to all the voters in their area. Voters who do not hear about a state school board member cannot make an informed vote. Nonpartisan elections are intended for small local races (like City Council) where you can presumably meet the candidate, and thus do not need a party affiliation. But the 15 members of the State School Board in 2012 will likely have approximately 200,000 residents in their district! There is no way they can meet with more than 20,000, under any circumstances. In other words, party affiliation is absolutely necessary in any election on such a big scale.
- The education budget of Utah is the largest single category of expenditures. Money is always partisan. Power flocks to money. Hiding behind the non-partisan curtain does not allow constituents to know where candidates stand on any issue. Members of the state school board support democratic bills over republican bills by a 2:1 margin according to a former state school board member. This does not represent the makeup of the state electorate.
- Saying we don’t want political parties to influence school board elections guarantees that special interest groups will have greater say.
- The vetting process of running through a convention race helps weed out unqualified candidates, but does so in a grassroots fashion.
- Putting a party line affiliation next to a candidates name helps inform voters that may be unaware of where non-affiliated candidates stand on issues.
Case in point: These images show one candidates’ campaign material touting her as a conservative but there are many who would question her “conservative” credentials. Yet she gets away with saying this because there is no party affiliation and there are no delegates vetting the candidates. This will now start a trend of candidates quickly claiming the conservative “crown” and an unknowing public may believe whichever candidate can get that message out first. This is a disturbing trend that will only confuse and misinform voters. The delegate system works to help closely examine candidates prior to the public being bombarded with a variety of deceptive messages.