Monday, October 31, 2005

Charlottesville School Board Referendum

Next Tuesday’s (11/8/05)election includes an important ballot initiative on whether Charlottesville should have an elected rather than appointed school board.
This is a relatively well blogged/reported story. Cavalier Daily says yes to the referendum. Cavalier Daily reminds us that the local NAACP endorsed the elected school board referendum. Waldo discussed it on his cville news blog, with many comments.
My two cents:
Jeffrey Rossman authored the initiative and spearheaded the signature drive to get the referendum on the ballot.
Some reasons and rebuttal for an elected school board follow.
· Democracy for democracy sake (Rossman is after all a professor of 20th Century Russia)

· Creigh Deeds sponsored the bill to permit change from appointed to elected school board so it must be ok for Charlottesville since he is our State Senator (and a Democrat).
- Vote for Creigh Deeds for Attorney General!
- Back when this legislation passed, Deeds did not represent Charlottesville.

· If school board members aren’t willing to run for office then perhaps they are not willing to do the hard work of managing the school system.
- On “Wake-up Call with Rick Moore” (now available as a podcast) Brian Wheeler stated the cost of his election to the School Board in Albemarle County was close to $10,000 (he is at large member)
- Steve Koleszar (Now running for Delegate in the 58th district) stated it cost him to run three times about $1000 each time, although he may have run unopposed twice.
- The cost associated with a contested election and the hard work of campaigning are barriers to good, hard-working people entering a school board race.

· School Board is a governing body not an advisory body like the Planning Commission therefore perceptions of accountability and responsiveness matter, even if the reality is the appointed school board is responsive and accountable as well.
- Waldo pointed out in the above article that City Council frequently doesn't reappoint unresponsive school board members.
- Former County school board member Charles Martin, who is not actively opposed to the referendum and lives in the County so wont be voting on it, stated the main jobs of a School Board is to choose a superintendent, create a strategic plan and make sure the plan is being followed.

· Diversity on the school board isn’t an issue in Charlottesville since the progressive electorate will elect a diverse group of people.
- This is in response to Albemarle County’s elected School Board lack of diversity.
- Kevin Lynch, who has not taken a position on the referendum but frequently is the opposition in these panel discussions, reminds the progressive voters of Charlottesville that it takes a lot of work to convince good people to run.

The main problem as I see it with all of this is the energy and focus of the electorate (no matter how progressive) is on administration NOT on actual education of real students. I fear the trend in Charlottesville is “No Child Left Behind”ization (if I can make stuff up), where what matters is numbers NOT teaching and educating. Further politicizing of the school board will not make educating students any easier. Speaking of slippery slopes, very few people vote, even in Charlottesville. It is not a stretch to imagine idealogues getting elected to any school board with a small minority of votes.

Rossman and referendum supporters sincerely believe an elected school board is better for democracy, voters and taxpayers. I am not so sure it follows that it is best for children and the community.


Mckora said...

If we are so big on Democracy how come we don't Democratically elect our President?

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