Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

The Need for Partisan School Board Elections in Utah

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):

  1. Education isn’t partisan so elections shouldn’t be
  2. We’re in the most conservative state/district and now you want to control education with partisanship?
  3. Party money may influence elections
  4. Members will be more influenced by their party politics than their constituents

Responses/Reasons for:

  1. Everything involving money is partisan
  2. You think the NEA and UEA aren’t partisan?
  3. If you think schools are already conservative what are you afraid of having partisan elections? Nothing would change.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Control over spending large amounts of money is principle based. Partisan control helps put board members in that have a known ideology.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Saying we don’t want political parties to influence school board elections guarantees that special interest groups will have greater say.
  13. The vetting process of running through a convention race helps weed out unqualified candidates, but does so in a grassroots fashion.
  14. 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.

JoDee Sundberg Campaign Sign

JoDee Sundberg Campaign Sign

Questions Posed to ASD Board

At tonight’s Alpine School District board meeting, a volunteer read the following statement to the school board.

I have volunteered to read this statement from the Utah’s Republic dot org organization.

To the Alpine School District School Board:

Recently, there has been a disappointing set of events that has caused the public to question the district. Last month, hundreds of parents brought you their concerns about the motto, mission statement, and direction of this district in educating our children. Instead of researching the problems to make corrections, you accused parents of “misrepresenting” yours and the district’s positions.

What specific misrepresentation occurred? It is a fact that someone in the district wanted to provide a link to support the district position that we are a democracy. Someone at the district researched and found William Meyers’ site with a page calling our Founding Fathers “predatory elitists.” That person felt it represented the district position correctly, got it approved, and posted the link on the district’s website. Someone approved your mission statement explanation that used the term “democracy” 13 times and the words “academics” or “republic” not even once. Parents then found the source of the “enculturating” phrase coming from John Goodlad, a humanist educator with very socialistic views on politics and family rights. When all these stars aligned, parents decided to present the facts to the public.

In essence, we were doing your job. You swore an oath to protect the constitution from “domestic enemies.” In your stewardship that is to protect our school system from false educational ideas that would weaken the constitution and our families.

We are here tonight to present you with 3 questions and ask that you, our elected officials, provide answers at the next board meeting on April 20th. We are giving these questions to the press as well so you know that we do take your positions seriously.

Our questions are:
1-Who exactly was misrepresented and what misrepresentations and falsehoods are you referring to in your statements to the public and to school district faculty?

2- You admitted at the last board meeting that “Enculturating the Young into a Social and a Political Democracy” is not user friendly and you will revisit the use of this term. In the meantime, will you direct the immediate removal of all instances of the “Enculturating” sign and the “Democracy” motto in all district buildings and schools until you have developed a new motto which is absent of politics? If not, why?

3 -What policies have you now implemented as a result of this recent controversy to ensure false educational ideas do not further creep into our children’s classrooms (ex. sponsoring constitution classes for teachers during teacher development time; reconsidering the sources of your material such as the PSP/NNER/CITES connections to Goodlad’s teachings, etc…)?

We ask that you, the board, our elected officials, specifically answer these questions so that you are responsible for the answers.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The public looks forward to hearing your answers to these 3 questions at your next board meeting on April 20th.