2001-04-28 / Editorial/Opinion

Take Politics Out Of The Schools

Take Politics Out Of The Schools

Those who believe that politics have no part in running our public school system have only to look at recent events to discover just how wrong they are. Politics continues to pay a pervasive role in school affairs.

Witness the new law that would do away with local school boards. Anybody who follows school affairs, even in a rudimentary manner, knows that the concept of "community control" and the birth of local school boards from that concept were both controversial and political from the first. The imposition of "Community Control" and some community’s desire to use community control to break the teacher’s union, led to a divisive three-month strike that hardened many hearts and brought politicians to education like sharks to a bloody dolphin.

For most of the next 25 years, local political clubs backed the election of members of the local school boards. Those who won the coveted school board seats often were beholden to the politician behind the scene. Many board members used their school board seat as a jumping off place to higher office.

The ability to hire and to control budget allocations also gave the boards the chance to make "no show" jobs for cronies, to hire people not for their ability, but for their party loyalty. The school board in our own school district was permanently suspended and two of its members were indicted for using the mail to defraud and extortion. The Legislature took away many of the board’s powers, including the power to hire administrators and to set school budgets.

The new proposed State law to do away with the schools boards is based on the fact that they have almost no power in any case. Is it moral to take the group’s powers away and then argue that they have to go because they have no power? We do not think so.

The local school board may have lost most of its power, but it still serves as a conduit between the public and the bureaucracy. This remains an important function.

We urge our local state legislators to vote against the new bill. They blew it by voting in the last governance bill. Let’s hope they learned their lesson. Less politics means better schools.

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