Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Elections aren’t a waste of money

Our school board’s chair, Sally Hoelscher, announced her resignation from the board yesterday, citing personal reasons. The board can now choose to fill the position by appointment or (by not acting within thirty days) can trigger a special election.

The last vacancy was filled by appointment, and I expect this one to be, too. I don’t think that’s the end of the world. It would take four of the six remaining members to approve an appointment—in effect, a supermajority—and there’s about a year left in Hoelscher’s term.

Nonetheless, I hope the board will choose to hold an election. And I certainly hope that the board members won’t justify an appointment on the grounds of “avoiding a costly election.” Democratic control of the public schools isn’t just an extravagant frill.

One of the most common complaints about the board, after all, has been that it is unresponsive to community input. There are many controversial issues currently before the board, including the recent budget cuts, redistricting, and the implementation of the long-term facilities plan. There is no better way to gauge community preferences on those issues than by holding an election. An election would certainly be a far better indicator than the district’s hyper-managed “engagement” efforts (and may even be less expensive!).

Of course, this blog has been ranting for years about K-12 education’s disrespect for democratic values. Democratic control of public education is as enfeebled as it’s ever been. In my dreams, our board members would use this occasion to welcome public input and to proudly defend the importance of democratic control. At the very least I hope they don’t add to the disrespect by suggesting that democracy is just a costly luxury. .