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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A $600,000 School Board Election (Not Here In Green Island)

What elected office can be more low key than a seat on the local school board? After all, there's no need for a robust and expensive campaign chock full of pricey ads in all forms of the media. No lengthy political campaigns and debates. And, if you win - there are long hours of work, sleepless nights spent worrying about how to balance the needs of learners and the interests of taxpayers during economic decline, little appreciation for your efforts, and countless meetings, phone calls, and emails - all for no pay!.

Then why are more than $600,000 dollars involved in a school board race in Denver, Colorado. Okay, it's a big city, but still... In a twist of the oft quoted "Think globally, act locally," this school board race is a clear example of national interests and the motives of profit oriented businesses from outside of the Denver and the state of Colorado jumping in with mountains of money to influence a city school board election with the intent of advancing their own causes.

Read on -

After I read this I found myself thinking about some of the strands of concerns expressed by those people involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Among the many issues associated with this movement appears to be a contention that corporations are exerting a disproportionately high amount of influence in social and political policy and receiving inordinate benefits as a result. I don't really know, nor do I have the facts. But, operating on the premise that perception is one's reality, it does seem like this contentious school board race in Denver (see article above) has reached well beyond the limits of the local community.

School boards are among the last bastions of local control, a forum where residents can discuss matters of importance to their community and its future. The long reach of both state and federal department's of education grows each year and approaches a level of suffocation, particularly when the local school districts must contend with unfunded mandates that may not be philosophically consistent with the value and beliefs of a community and beyond the capacity of the district to financially support the mandates. This slow form of strangulation is exacerbated when corporations, outside lobbyists, and political groups external to the district enter the fray because school board candidates, at least in Colorado, do not have to operate under a cap on campaign donations like those donating to political office.

This article presents a scary view of the future unless policies are developed and enacted that seek to limit outside interests from swallowing up the "conversation and discussions" of local residents with personal and financial investments in their school district.

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