School Board Elections Are Political

I haven’t really commented on the upcoming School Board elections, mainly because I can’t wrap my head around what’s going on.  With all the attention on these races – phone polls, money, PACs – I keep feeling I’m missing something – Big.  What is going on?  What’s on the line?  And why the hell is so much money being dumped into an election that, I predict, will still have a dismal turn-out.

Basically, what’s the agenda?  For the life of me I don’t see it.  Yeah, I get the split is between Charter and Choice (Ed reformers) supporters vs Traditional Public School supporters, but that’s hardly new.  What’s new are the aggressive tactics being employed and the money being spent.  All of this keeps me wondering… Am I missing something about these races; something that makes them vitally important?  Is something major about to change depending on who wins these elections?  If so, what?

But… whether I’m missing something, or not, one conclusion I’ve reached (and have said before) is that School Board Elections need to be moved to the General Election in November.  They are political.  They are important, and they effect everyone – probably more so than most elected offices.  And this year they are hotter than ever.

As usual, Kilroy, Delaware Libertarian, Delaware Way, The Mind of Mr. Matthews and Transparent Christina are all over these stories, and well worth your time to read.

And if you have an answer to my questions… please share.

27 comments on this post.
  1. Joanne Christian:

    “I can’t wrap my head around what’s going on”……either….and I’m the experienced, outgoing boardmember in Appoquinimink. This is reprehensible on ALL sides who have aligned w/ any organization outside of community citizens. Period.

    As a staunch supporter of a separate election day apart of the general, I surely hope the day has not come to rethink my support. But, I sure as heck am not going to tolerate this high stakes grab of what outsiders view as access perhaps to appointed persons of voice. This is a travesty of the very grassroots and intent of local school boards knowing their very local constituency.

    I REALLY REALLY don’t want to throw in the towel, and commit local school board elections to the last lever you pull in November. But then that compels me to offer or stimulate some conversation about dialing down the rhetoric and supposed nefarious intents we find ourselves awash in this May. I have a few ideas–too long for this post–but let me say–I am truly saddened by the tsunami of ill will and organized self-interest groups usurping a very local decision of how we play ball.

  2. pandora:

    What is going on with these school board elections? I’d love to see the money being spent on each vote. Not seeing the voter turn-out worth the bang for the buck.

    IMO, these elections are being run and funded like a political campaign – and if they aren’t political then someone had better explain what’s going on this time around.

    It’s time to move them to the general – at least that way the candidates would have to court everyone’s vote.

  3. Mike O.:

    Great questions, Pandora. I’d love to just call it a tempest in a teapot, but there seems to be some realignment trying to happen. I felt the same thing during the BofA megacharter announcement when all the officials seemed to know more than they were letting on.

  4. Nancy Willing:

    I did a search over the weekend of who is sitting on whose boards and etc ad nauseum. It is all one big happy Chamber of Commerce big, wealthy GOP – business-oriented education reform non-profit orgz party that we’ve all been paying attention to all along.

    What is new is the nasty coming anonymously from the Rodel Voice4DE group between push polls and horrific attack mailers, there is blood in the water.

    yes, school board elections are political. Why do we keep pretending they aren’t?

  5. Geezer:

    “yes, school board elections are political. Why do we keep pretending they aren’t?”

    So the Tea Party doesn’t get involved?

  6. KilroysDelaware:

    Pandora,

    Kilroy’s has nothing on the board races not even for Red Clay. However, I do support Kenny Rivera.

    We need to change some election laws where voting can only take place in the nominating district the board candidate resides in. Meaning no more voting at large. I am good with moving elections to November. School board members are elected public officials. I do support limiting contributions to only from individuals not PAC.

  7. mediawatch:

    Given the already pitiful turnout at school board elections, restricting voting to residents of the candidates’ nominating district will only reduce turnout even more. If you’ve got a seven-member board, imagine a turnout that’s one-seventh of what you have now. Also, about half the districts, primarily downstate, elect all members at large (which was pretty much how it was done in New Castle County before deseg). And then, to be fair about it, you’d have to reapportion each nominating district whenever a new census comes out.
    On more thing — moving school elections to November will probably involve redrawing all those nominating district lines to coincide with established election districts and I wouldn’t be surprised if school district boundaries don’t match election district boundaries.
    Not saying it can’t be done, and not saying November elections are a bad idea, but there are a lot of logistical hoops that folks will have to jump through to make it work.

  8. pandora:

    I get that the procedure would be complicated, but something has to change. It’s frustrating when a board member who’s supposed to represent a certain district can get elected by completely ignoring the district they’re supposed to represent. No matter the hassle, I’d like to see board members courting, and needing, the people in their district in order to get elected.

    If that happened, then we may not have schools falling through the cracks because school board members would actually represent, and respond to, their individual districts.

    And if what’s going on now in the school board races is indicative of future school board races then it’s time to move them to November and quit pretending they aren’t political.

  9. cassandra_m:

    These elections look like a capture the flag operation — one designed to harden the have and have not nature of the system. I’m on record for moving school board elections to November. If anything, it makes the capture the flag people work for a heck of a lot more votes. And I think that school referenda votes ought to be the same day as school board elections.

  10. MJ:

    This is a re-run of what happened in Denver last fall when one group funneled $300K to three people (half of it coming from one person).

    And we have a male version of Sandi Minard running down here in Cape. He even changed his voting address from Milton (where he lives) to Dewey (where he has a rental property) so he could run for the seat. He also bankrolled teahadi favorite Georgia Leonhart (disbarred lawyer) 3 years ago.

  11. liberalgeek:

    Here’s another blog post that came across my Facebook account this weekend:

    http://www.bobjohnson.cc/2012/04/political-agendasvotinglets-go-people.html

    Appo is particularly interesting, as a Republican won last time with unofficial political support and there is another one running again. Between the two of them, they have exactly zero children enrolled in the district.

  12. Joanne Christian:

    Just to be fair Geek–In Appo. Mrs. Cale or Mrs. Johnson don’t have any children enrolled in the district either. Only myself and Mr. Abrams are still herding them through.

    This is all just a mess. We even had a candidate night, and we still are left with this.

  13. liberalgeek:

    True. At least Mrs. Johnson has school-aged children. Plus, one could make the case that she is politically connected (Dem. Rep. Quinn Johnson is her husband) but I saw zero involvement of the local or regional Democratic party in her last election.

  14. Jason330:

    Cassandra, Do we have any reps or senators who might take this up?

    “I’m on record for moving school board elections to November. If anything, it makes the capture the flag people work for a heck of a lot more votes. And I think that school referenda votes ought to be the same day as school board elections.”

  15. cassandra_m:

    I’m not sure. I’d bet not, though.

  16. mediawatch:

    I agree that tax/bond referenda should be same day as school board elections. It’s a waste of taxpayer money to hold these votes on separate days — and a referendum might generate more people turning out for the board election. However, that common-sense idea wouldn’t work if school board elections were in November because school budgets are determined in the spring.

  17. liberalgeek:

    It did come up about a year or two ago. I distinctly remember having an animated discussion with John Kowalko about it since he and I were on opposite sides of the argument.

  18. pandora:

    I think the main point here is that school board elections have evolved/are evolving into full-fledged political animals.

    And while I’m not dismissing mediawatch’s points (which are extremely valid) something has to change, because we could find ourselves electing school boards with an agenda that has nothing to do with schools.

    I’m also thinking that one of the reasons there’s so much action in these school board elections is due to how easily they are to win and influence. Find 500 new voters (sometimes less) and you win. And that has much to do with the separate election date. Yeah, it’s time to move them to November.

  19. Steve Newton:

    I have come around to agreeing with pandora et al to move these elections to November.

    I just have to deal with the puke in the back of my throat when I think about hearing the first school board candidate radio spot.

  20. MOT:

    In Middletown, it’s not just that Richard Forsten and Andy Cherry are Republicans, it is that they are leading party figures- officials, party officers. One is parlimentarian, the other is on the state committee. It’s as if the head of the state Democratic Party decided to run for school board and then protested that it was “nonpolitical.” Please. I think it is because Repubicans can only win School Board races now- they need the low interest and low turnout. Hell the way the party is going under the leadership of Sigler, Cherry & Co. they may soon be saluting Republican school board members at Vic Mead! On Mrs. Johnson- in point of fact she had children in the schools when she first ran (I am almost certain) and has had kids go through the school system previously. Our two Rethuglicans have never been to so much as a PTA meeting- but they are soooooo interested in our schools. Right.

  21. TOM:

    Who cares that they are Rs or Ds? Forsten has been in it for a year and has done a commendable job with no hidden agenda. Cherry has a little girl starting first grade in the school system. Why make it out to be more than it is? He’s a concerned dad who wants to be involved in his child’s education.

  22. Jackie:

    Its NONSENSE to say you need school aged children to best represent the community’s interest on a School Board. Some seniors would better represent the community with all the bloated tax hikes and reflect those voices on fixed income. Plus, they are granparents so you can’t say they don;t care about kids…..

  23. Jason330:

    No it isn’t.

  24. Momof3:

    Hear that tick, tick, tick? It is the clock counting down to 2015. After six years of Vision 2015, the initiative hasn’t really produced any results. With only a few years left, it’s time for overdrive. The money is there to make it happen and the wannabe Fellows of Leadership Delaware are the willing foils.

  25. liberalgeek:

    Forsten has been in it for a year and has done a commendable job with no hidden agenda.

    Actually, on Tuesday night Forsten (a development attorney) suggested that Appoquinimink needs to replace a lot of cornfields with housing units. So, you are technically correct, the agenda isn’t hidden.

    Other words of wisdom from Forsten included complaints that the district hadn’t been efficiently running their buses. The more efficient way will be to have kindergarteners ride with the rest of the elementary students (even though they attend different schools) and forcing high school students to fend for themselves transportation-wise when attending away games.

    I suspect that he and Cherry are going to be two peas in a pod if Cherry wins.

  26. mediawatch:

    Actually, proponents of Vision 2015 will say they have made progress toward achieving many of their original objectives — but they’ve gotten absolutely nowhere on school finance reform.

    That said, the fact remains that, no matter what they say they have achieved, there is scant evidence that Delaware is any closer to Vision 2015′s goal of creating “world-class schools.” Report after report puts us in the middle of the pack nationally. If we’re mediocre in terms of the U.S., how can we ever have a chance at being “world class”?

  27. John Young:

    And that’s why they are proponents……