Sunday, January 2, 2011

Term Limits for the School Board?

"Sign the petition for term limits for the school board." The scraggly signature gatherer outside my local grocery store had my attention. "Really," I asked, "what else does it say?" "Local district elections," was his reply. Wow, sounded great. I picked up the petition board. He also told me there was more on the back. Taking a read, I became less impressed. There was some language about increasing the number of districts, but having some of the members nominated by particular community groups. I admit that I signed anyway, figuring we could debate the merits later.

Now I wish I hadn't. The petition drive is the brain child of an innocuous sounding group called San Diegans 4 Greater Schools. Scott Himmelstein is the organizer and he is given a full page to explain himself in the VOSD. My key problem is that four of the nine members of the school board would be appointed by people based on their positions as leaders of committees that are part of education/community partnerships. Such a plan has two key drawbacks, of which I am sure that Mr. Himmelstein is aware, but isn't discussing. First, these well meaning and dedicated people are, by the nature of their volunteer efforts, part of the education establishment. They wouldn't have been elevated to their positions without being able to work effectively with the educracy. This plan is a clever way for the education establishment to pick its own board. Look at the people who would be on the nominating committee if this plan were in effect today, and tell me honestly that these people aren't education insiders. I have no problem with their work, I just don't think they should be appointing members of the board.

Second, because of the new power that would be vested in these positions, inevitably, there will be political pressure to ensure that those appointed tow the mark with respect to the type of people nominated. One could easily see members being removed or replaced for political reasons, with the possible exception of the university presidents. This would be a disservice to these community leaders who are presumably working to make our schools better.

If we have learned anything from the Obamacare debacle, it is that process matters. School reform is too important an issue to be pursued with a school board that has members not selected through the democratic process, even if they are a minority. There is nothing about their plan to improve schools that couldn't be accomplished through an entirely democratically elected school board. Go to their web site and ask these same questions. If school reform is important, then those impacted need a grass roots movement of their own to start electing like minded board members. Further, I could be convinced that term limits and district only elections for the members of the board might also be a good thing, but undemocratic processes cause my gut to recoil.

Image courtesy of my lefty friends at OB RAG, with whom I seldom agree, but met at the coffee party meetings and seemed decent enough folks. They aren't down with this plan either.


  1. "...innocuous sounding group called San Diegans 4 Greater Schools."

    C'mon, B-Daddy, they may have well named themselves 'San Diegans for the children'.

  2. An excellent piece, B-daddy. Thanks for the information, which I am going to pass along.