Delaware Blogosphere: School Board Edition

Filed in National by on May 6, 2012

If you haven’t been reading Kilroy, Transparent Christina, Delaware Libertarian, Does Experience Count, and The Mind of Mr. Matthews allow me to link to some of their posts so you can get up to speed.

The Does Experience Count blog asks the question we’ve all been wondering – What’s all the school board hoopla about?

What is it all about, Alfie? Hardly anybody votes in school board elections.  And, yet, they have become the new hot thing—at least here in li’l ole Delaware.

All of a sudden school board elections in Delaware have taken on a life of their own, and have somehow attracted the spending of unprecedented tens of thousands of dollars. YIKES.

I always knew that school board elections were important.  Heck—I know that all public elections are important, and I have never missed an opportunity to participate in democratic process by voting. I was thrilled when I reached the age when I could vote.

I am a teacher. Obviously, I would (and should be) interested in school board elections. In reality, the school board is my boss. And, I have worked very hard in the past 6-7 years to identify and support candidates who I was confident were committed to school improvement, to the best interests of children and our schools, who had a broad and deep understanding of our schools, and who indicated that they were ready, willing, and able to do the following:

Now that I’ve left you hanging, go read the whole thing.

Over at Transparent Christina there’s too much to link to.  Here’s a sample – Skip, WSFS Chairman sends out his call to arms.  You really need to just go over there and read.  John is focused on calling out the players of Voices4Delaware, and he is relentless and passionate.

Sigh, Kilroy is another blogger that has too much information to link to.  So, you know the drill… Go read.  His post today is on whether we school board elections should be moved to November – something I’ve been calling for for years (And, an issue Steve Newton, at The Delaware Libertarian, has come around on, albeit reluctantly).

Moving the Delaware School Board Elections question is moving in once again on the front-burner.
The debate to move the school election to November has been kicked around for a few years now. I guess the reason the board elections are in May is because we don’t want to politicize them. Well it looks like that ship already sailed with all the special interest power-plays for school board members. However, lets make it clear just like blogger opinions these PACs like Voices 4 Delaware Education Action Fund directed by an Ohio hired gun and call center located in Minnesota are just that, opinions.

Which brings us to Delaware Libertarian who is pointing out that both sides are playing the game with some of the same players.  BTW, he’s right about that.

Pretty much all that has been discovered here is that the business community was slower on the uptake than the teachers’ union (by about three years), and that this is the first school board election to be fought out since Citizens United changed the playing field for the worse.

Folks, the real answer is that they’re ALL playing us.

Hmm… I agree that people are batting for both teams, but I’d question whether the business community came late to the game – more accurately, they came late to the PAC game, but they’ve been quietly in the game for over a decade.  In fact, I’d venture to say that the reason the teacher’s union organized was to counter the business communities influence/seats on existing school boards.

Steve has also been posting some thoughts about improving education which are worth everyone’s time.  Here’s a few of his ideas on how to end Delaware’s Education Civil War:

A.  Require districts conducting referenda to conduct them on the same day as the school board elections. This would achieve two things.  First, the candidates would have to take a position on the referendum at hand, which would lead to some interesting politics.  But, second, it would dramatically increase voter turn-out.  Take Red Clay again as an example:  the recent referendum saw over 10,000 people turn out to vote; a really good school board election gets 25-28% of that.

B.  End “at-large” voting for school board members. Now school board candidates must live in a certain nominating district to run, but everybody in the district gets to vote.  Why are people in Hockessin getting to vote on who will represent Red Clay residents in Wilmingtion, and vice versa?  If candidates only competed for votes in their own nominating districts, much different, more focused races would emerge, and the impact of both DSEA and Voices would be severely diminished.

3.  Have everybody on every side take responsibility for advocating for one child who is not his or her own, as a condition of participating in the debate. I am quite serious.  There are not only children who need mentors, but children who need advocates for IEP meetings, and children who need tutors, and children who need a ride to get to that charter school.  If you take the responsibility to intervene for one child who is not your own, and to do so on a consistent basis for as long as that child is in the system, you will learn about public education, about teachers, about research, about humility, and about service in ways you never knew could possibly exist.  It would take about 3-5 hours a week, week in and week out.  If all the big mouths in the great Delaware Education Civil War would each start by saying, “No matter what happens, I will personally help make the system work for this one child,” the war would be over in two months.

I don’t think that one’s going to happen, because to be honest there are more egos involved on both sides than people committed to service.  And besides, if a thousand people who have been arguing and fighting over education each took responsibility for one child, you know what?

The system would start working.

And you know what I usually hear when I bring this up with either “side”?


Go read the whole thing.  These are really good ideas.

Moving on to, and wrapping up with, The Mind of Mr. Matthews who has penned a response post to Steve Newton, entitled: All special interests are not created equal.

Steve, none of us has ever complained that Voices 4 Delaware should exist. Never. We’ve never said that organizations WITH special interests should ever be barred from engaging in the political process. Never. We’ve never said an organization like Voices shouldn’t be able to back candidates of its choosing. NEVER.

What we’ve said is that organizations involved in the political process should be good enough to disclose the individuals who donate to their cause. This allows those interested in knowing who’s funding the operation their chances to see just what’s going on. This is not Voices 4 Delaware Education Action Fund. No one knows who’s given them thousands of dollars to bankroll extremely nasty campaign mailers in Christina School District. What do they have to hide? If you’re gonna go nasty like that, you’d better damn well expect people to ask who the hell you are and what your motivations are.

Why yes, you should go read the whole thing.  Thank you for asking!

Hopefully, reading these bloggers will bring everyone up to speed.  All of them deserve to be commended.  But what do I think about these school board elections?  You’ll just have to wait for my post tomorrow.

*Link to candidate info/State of Delaware

*Link to News Journal candidate info

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A stay-at-home mom with an obsession for National politics.

Comments (12)

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  1. SussexWatcher says:

    I read Mike’s post this morning. I’ve not been as focused on the education debate as I should, and I found myself needing a scorecard to keep track of the bad guys. Can someone lay it out for me, in as simple a format as possible, who these people and institutions are and what they are arguing for?

    Skip Schoenhals?
    Vision 2015?
    Rodel Foundation?
    How does Vision 2015 fit in with RTTP?
    What relationship does Vision 2015 have to the Vision Network? Is it the same thing?

  2. Saul Ewing, (Appo SB Rich Forsten’s a partner), is listed in Innovative Schools as Charter School Legal Support. The capital support includes PNC and WSFS, natch.

    Like Wilmington Riverfront Corp. going begging for extra public tax dollar support, these for-profit corpro-education reform entities think the time has come for charter schools to take their share of capital funding from the public teat. Rumor has it that Pete duPont ally (Richards, Layton and Finger) at leg hall, Melanie George Smith is poised to introduce a bill of this nature.

    Could it be the downturn in the economy that is tickling this kind of aggression from the apex of our business community – Voices4DEAF?

    Are the Business Roundtable, Rodel and DESTATECoC etc. unable to actually manipulate the free market to attrack venture capital rewards for their charters and now trying an end run around decent public policy by populating our local education boards?

  3. JJ says:

    The Voices 4 Education mailers have been horrible. Regular cut and paste, nothing original.
    Rivera will win by default.The corporate boys threw a lot of money down the hole.

  4. think123 says:

    Not sure who the best candidates are but several of Skip’s choice are proud “graduates” of Leadership Delaware. Leadership Delaware is the creation of a former GOP State Chairman. Leadership training is done at his house. Nothing wrong with any of that. This is the same ex-GOP chairman who sent out a recommended reading list to the GOP promoting Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter books. It’s probably fair to say these candidates represent the far right.

  5. mediawatch says:

    Think … but don’t think too fast.
    There are at least two Leadership Delaware grads who are already serving on school boards in New Castle County and who have connections with the Democratic Party.
    Leadership Delaware may have started out with a significant rightward tilt, but my impression is that it’s not working out that way.

  6. Mike O. says:

    kavips brings it into focus for me with this post and others… V4D is about union busting. Anybody have a counter-argument before I go with that narrative?

  7. Jack Polidori says:

    Pandora argues that all the business community is doing is playing catch up in terms of school board election spending with a practice begun by the DSEA three years ago (actually four). I respectfully disagree in one major way ….
    The DSEA voluntarily — that’s right, voluntarily — has been posting to the state Department of Elections web site all expenditures within 24 hours of making them. The current law does not require it. DSEA made the policy decision four years ago to do so in the belief that transparency was in the public interest.
    The business community has decided to hide in the darkness, and not publish its expenditures within 24 hours.
    That’s the difference, I submit, and a noteworthy/important one.
    Passage of House Bill 300 by next week in the General Assembly will close this glaring loophole that the business community (Rodel Foundation???) has chosen consciously and purposefully to exploit.
    Who are these people? How much has been contributed? By whom? Why?
    It is noteworthy that the head of the 501(c)(3) — Voices 4 Delaware Education, Inc. — is Ms. Sylvia Banks…whom, I believe, is Director of Corproate Giving/Philanthropy for the DuPont Corporation.
    Who else is on her board?
    Who is on the board of the 501(c)(4) — Voices 4 Delaware Education Action Fund, Inc.? We know about Mr. William Keenan of the DeNovo Corporation.
    Why don’t these corporate leaders exhibit the character and forthrightness to bring into the daylight their compadres/madres, their funding, and their expenditures?
    The difference is like night and day, as Mom always used to say.

  8. pandora says:

    Pandora argues that all the business community is doing is playing catch up in terms of school board election spending with a practice begun by the DSEA three years ago (actually four).

    Except, Jack, that isn’t what I said. Here is what I wrote:

    Hmm… I agree that people are batting for both teams, but I’d question whether the business community came late to the game – more accurately, they came late to the PAC game, but they’ve been quietly in the game for over a decade. In fact, I’d venture to say that the reason the teacher’s union organized was to counter the business communities influence/seats on existing school boards.