Thursday, October 13, 2011

School Board Candidate: My Responses to the Press.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am actively trying to get elected to my local school board. Somehow I managed to get my name on the ballot in the May primary (by 1 vote). This was quite an accomplishment considering my community's suspicions about my motivation to be on the school board.

Quickly. Last year, according to "some people," my sole motivation was ending the annual Christmas concert. Funny, but a true story.

Well now that it is officially election season, the local newspaper sent me a few questions concerning my desire to be a member of the Bellwood-Antis School Board. The news director is compiling the responses of the candidates for a future print issue.

But why wait? Below are the questions and my responses. Christmas aside, I actually would like to win a seat so I worked pretty hard on my responses.

1. What is the biggest issue facing the Bellwood Antis school board and what can be done to resolve it.

There are two major issues facing the Bellwood-Antis SD that are deeply connected. First, our elected officials are pushing for more charter schools and a voucher plan that will allow any child to attend a private school at the expense of the taxpayers (you). The other related issue—The current Bellwood Antis school board consists of members that have no idea that the privatization of our school system is at stake. To make matters worse, there are other members of the board that actively support the same elected officials that believe public schools should be “selectively dismantled.” If elected I would first alert all the residents of the Bellwood-Antis School district of the threat to our community and our public schools. I will also do what ever it takes to make sure that the Bellwood Antis school board is responsive to the educational needs of the community and I will never support any legislation that weakens or threatens the existence of the Bellwood-Antis public schools.

Citizens need to realize that our public schools are the hearts of our local communities and that if they are dismantled the souls of our communities will be compromised.

2. Do you think school boards should have the ability to use exceptions to the Taxpayer Relief Act, or should any proposed taxes over the limit be up to a voter referendum?

The easiest way to get votes is to say no. However, this simple answer takes away the civic responsibility of the school district’s stakeholders (children, parents, teachers, and community members) to address the school board on important financial decisions. The Tax Payer Relief Act or any law that takes away the ability of local stake holders to make their own decisions seems condescending and a violation of the basic principles of self government. If the community of Bellwood, through discussions with the school board, wants to make financial adjustments to the school budget then why would anybody be in favor of limiting the ability of the citizens to make these decisions?

3. How would you help improve or maintain proficient academic standards while dealing with tight budgets in this economy?

Once you get rid of the PSSA (NCLB) system, PVAS, and Keystone Exams (Exit exams) a magical thing will happen—tight budgets disappear. We spend millions of dollars on standardized testing and managing data systems that have no academic benefit. Teachers are forced to prepare kids to pass meaningless tests that take away time from learning history, science, art, music, and physical education. Since the implementation of NCLB and PSSAs our students’ academic abilities have actually decreased. Over 50% of freshmen entering college need remedial math and writing even though they scored “proficient” on their PSSAs. National research on NCLB has even concluded that the amount of money spent on tests, testing, data systems, and the government bureaucrats paid to oversee the testing systems would have been better spent on school personnel and real resources (not test prep materials and coaches). Excellent teachers and staff, knowledgeable administrators, a strong curriculum, and engaged parents will better prepare our children academically and cost less than the meaningless PSSA system and the future Keystone exams.

4. What do you think about approaching vendors and businesses to sponsor school activities as a way to produce additional revenue for the district?

5. What do you think about approaching businesses for naming rights to district facilities as another way to raise revenues?

Questions four and five are too related to answer separately. A better question would be, why do public schools need to approach businesses as sponsors and for naming rights to generate “revenue?” If there is a revenue problem then the state is not living up to its constitutional obligation to, “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” However, if local businesses and vendors want to support their community public schools financially then that should be negotiated. I will say that when a community (people and businesses) supports their local public schools both the children and the community benefit.

What do you think? Do I have a chance?

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