Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Leaders must represent their followers' best interests

The title above seems like a no-brainer in a democratic society but it is often not the case. Rogue CEOs bring down companies but they are not re-elected year after year. Today I'm writing about school boards.

For those readers outside the United States, let me explain how schools are funded here. Parents move to affluent areas if they can afford it and pay higher property taxes because that is what pays for the schools. Taxes pay for bonds that build new school buildings, teacher salaries come out of the taxes and so does everything else. I pay about $14,000 a year in property taxes, the majority of which goes to fund schools in my county.

When election time comes around, people running for the school board positions usually take care to present their credentials: showing how their three children are in the district or have recently graduated from the district or they themselves are products of the schools. That usually weighs highly in voters minds since they want the school board members to have the school district's best interests in mind.

Now there are some parents who send their children to private schools. They still pay the property taxes in addition to the amount they spend for tuition. And there are some who home school their children. There is always grumbling from these people who complain that their tax dollars are not being spent on their own children. But that's another argument. Most of those who send their children to private schools do so for religious reasons. In most school districts these parents have no say on the school board.

But what happens when the majority of children in one town go to private schools? This is happening now in East Ramapo, NY school district where 8,000 children attend public school while 19,000 attend private school. This group has hijacked the school board by voting as a block and now holds seven of the nine seats.

They have sold elementary schools to their private schools for below market value, suggested cutting graduations as a 'Superfluous expense' and are cutting kindergarten. Read about all the details in this article. Parents of public school children are trying force out the five who have been on this school board the longest using a Federal lawsuit.

East Ramapo, NY School Board
Complications arise due to racial tensions. 85% of the public school students are Black or Hispanic, the rogue school board members are Orthodox Jewish. The president of the board, Daniel Schwartz, ranted about the interference:
“We are headed on a crisis, a horrible, horrible crisis,” Mr. Schwartz began. He referred to Auschwitz and Treblinka, and to statements against the board and Jews that he said had been made by district students.
“If you don’t like it, find yourself another place to live,” he said.
In the interview, Mr. Schwartz said it was insulting to contend that Orthodox Jews did not have an interest in excellent public schools.
“What they are suggesting is that Orthodox Jews as a whole are an entire subgroup that doesn’t give a damn about anyone else,” he said.

He does raise an interesting point, though. They do represent the majority of voters and were elected fairly. But they were elected to represent the students who attend the public schools. They probably read some kind of oath of office that committed them to represent those children. Shouldn't they obey that oath, rather than their own children's best interests?

No comments:

Post a Comment