Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't forget your school board election

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge abdul-hakim_shabazz.jpg

This election cycle in Indiana has pretty much been consumed by the race for the U.S. Senate. Let's face it: the President has pretty much conceded the state to Mitt Romney. And while Democrat John Gregg is a great candidate on paper, something just got lost in the translation and his campaign is sputtering in the final two weeks as opposed to Mike Pence's well-oiled machine. And with so many of us talking heads are looking for Lugar Republicans that we don't talk much about anything else. Allow me to change that as I divert your attention toward races a little closer to home, the race for school board.

There are numerous candidates running for these seats in IPS, Pike, Washington, Lawrence, Wayne, Decatur, Perry and Franklin Townships. School board races are some of the most important, but rarely get the attention they deserve. Even someone as politically astute as I am tends to focus on the bigger races, i.e. IPS. But that doesn't mean that what's going on in the Township schools isn't any less important. How many schools did IPS lose to the state under this current school board? Remember the big transportation debacle in Franklin Township schools? Or perhaps the former Wayne Township School Superintendent who got a $1 million payout after he left. These incidents might not have occurred if school boards were in place that actually put the students and taxpayers first instead of the school administration or their heads up their rear ends.

And it doesn't have to be anything controversial to get you to pay attention to these races. Schools are the lifeblood of a community. They determine home and property values, the location of new employers, and a variety of quality of life issues. And in an era of more choice, more competition and most importantly, more accountability, it is important that the citizens who are the managing partners for these school districts are the right people for the job.

It is unfortunate that school board elections are in the same year as presidential elections. I would much rather prefer that school board races be done during the same year as municipal elections. That way voters can focus solely on local matters and save the state and national issues for another time. However, it is what it is. So with that said, find out who your school board candidates are and then find out where they stand on the issues. What do they think about more choice and accountability? Do they think schools need more money or just need to do a better job of managing what they have? What is their plan to increase parental involvement? Do they think full-day kindergarten should be mandatory? What is their plan to increase post-secondary education preparedness? And here's a good one, the Indiana Department of Education is getting ready to issue letter grades for each school in Indiana. If that doesn't give you an indication of how well these school boards have been doing, I don't know what will. So make sure when you go to the voting booth and flip the ballot over and pick your school board candidates. Why should Romney, Obama, Pence, Johnson, Gregg, Boneham, Mourdock, Donnelly and Horning get all your attention?

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