"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 23, 2014

A $75,000 Party and the "Minority Voice": What this Election Really Means

Should $75,000 of your tax dollars be used for a 100-year birthday party for the school district?

Should $41,999 of your tax dollars be used to pay for dues for the school board and the superintendent?

Should board members tell you where they stood on these issues and the rationale behind them, EVEN IF they didn't agree with the majority?

Please watch this 5 minute video from one of our debates on the issue of HB250, a new law that requires boards to be accountable to their constituents, regardless of their obligations to their board. Then share it with your friends and neighbors. http://www.wendyhart4asd.com/video-hb-250-will-of-the-board-vs-will-of-the-people.html

To see what the video demonstrates, let's go back to the last board meeting, June 17, 2014.  The board approved spending $75,000 for our school district's 100th-year birthday party.  $75,000 would pay for one teacher and benefits.  This is a good example of the 'fine-tuning' that I think needs to be done with our budget.  It is also an example of how the 'minority voice' is currently represented, but won't be, depending on the outcome of this election. 

Let me explain. There are two schools of thought when it comes to the role of local school boards. (Yes, pun intended.)

"We Hire Good People and We Trust Them"
The first idea is that people in education are good people, so we don't really need oversight.  Yes, the school district is funded with tax dollars, but somehow, education is outside the norm.  School districts really just need boards who will go along and be supportive of everything that comes from either the district administration, or, more likely, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE).  The decision really isn't about any individual thing, so much as it is about whether or not there are good people at the USOE and in our district office.  Once you know they are good people, that's all that needs to be determined.  Then, it falls to the board to fund and to be supportive.  This way, all is well in Utah County.

"Trust, but Verify"
The second idea is that taxpayer money requires oversight.  It makes no value judgement on the quality of the people in our district or at the USOE.  It says only that the functions of government are to be overseen and verified by elected representatives.  As such, those representatives MUST be able to speak their mind, and to share their opinions, whether the rest of the board agrees or not.  As my esteemed colleague, Paula Hill said, "I didn't leave my First Amendment Rights at the door when I was elected. In fact, my election requires me more so to say what I believe." (To listen to the audio, select the link, download the first audio file.  Start at 1 hour,16 minutes.)

This is the fundamental difference that will be determined by this election.  Should school board members go along with the direction of the district, even if they believe that direction to be wrong?  Or should they be able to communicate their opposition to you, the voters and parents?  Is education a different sort of animal, in that the standard debate, discussion, and differences of opinion are not to exist?  I say, "No."  But in the 19 years prior to my tenure on the board, there was never a single "Nay" vote on the budget.  In fact, I was told I shouldn't vote no on a budget, or let you know if I did vote no on anything else.

Back to Tuesday.  I asked that we move the $75,000 for the party, $41,999 that you are paying for the board's and the superintendent's association dues (Utah School Boards Association, National School Boards Association, etc), as well as $25,000 that we pay for the BYU-Public School Partnership dues into the line items for Instruction, either teachers or aides, and their associated benefits.  Whether you agree with the use of those funds or not, you need to understand that I am not supposed to tell you about this now.  My substitute motion failed, and I am supposed to tell you that we are all very supportive of the 100-year celebration, as well as the use of your money toward our dues.  In fact, in all this time, you should not know of my opposition to anything, including Common Core.  If Common Core is an election issue for you, you would need to go back to the June, 2011 minutes to realize that I made a substitute motion to place funding for Common Core on hold until the board had had a chance to discuss it.  And that would be all you would know. 

Whatever else we may agree or disagree on, I hope you know that I believe that every, single elected representative, including those on a school board, should be open and honest with the people.  The Will of the Board or the Unity of the Board is not nearly as important as First Amendment rights and the responsibility I have to let you know where I stand on every single issue.  Every one.

Please vote tomorrow, June 24th, and bring two or three of your neighbors with you.