Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bill Lewis Reveals He's the Jonathan Gruber of CCSD

Those stupid Charleston County voters! We shouldn't allow them to elect school board members! That is the basic underpinning of retired CCSD operating officer Bill Lewis's proposal in Sunday's op-ed.

Of all horrors, democratically-elected board members don't always toe the line thrown out by the Chamber of Commerce. They're too stupid. Imagine having "community activists" or "disgruntled former teachers" on the board! It's a nightmare! Only such "highly-qualified" candidates as Chris Fraser, Brian Moody, and Gregg Meyers will fulfill that mission.

Lewis apparently believes that the school district should be run as a private-sector organization. Those private-sector boards he praises for not micromanaging their CEOs really did a good job preventing the excesses that caused the last recession, right?

We wonder why Lewis could not name any of the cities where mayors have made the difference in improving schools, since he seems to believe that mayoral control is the solution to CCSD's problems. His solution would give Charleston three seats, Mt. Pleasant three seats, and North Charleston five seats, since Mayor Summey will control the County Council's choices through Teddie Pryor, a North Charleston employee, and his son Elliott.

Politicians selecting school board members instead of voters? Gee, that sounds great.

There are two major ways in which the school board elections can be improved, neither of which is on Lewis's radar screen, or, should I say, the radar screen of the Chamber of Commerce member who vetted Lewis's op-ed.

It's an open secret that these supposedly non-partisan seats are as partisan as they can be, just flying under the radar. Our local paper chooses to ignore that slates are regularly supported by the county's Democrat and Republican organizations. These seats are non-partisan for the same reason that the mayoralty of Charleston is nonpartisan: so that white Democrats can fool Republicans into voting for them. Mayor Riley not a Democrat? Please.

If races were designated partisan, political parties would vet the candidates and voters would have a better idea for whom to vote in the primary. Voters would rapidly discover that the school board generally has been the hiding place for Democrats to be elected to office in the county. Check for yourself: how many of the present school board members are registered Democrats?

Some will try to make the case that Democrats and Republicans share the same ideas about education. Really? When was that last the case? Probably in the 1950s.

The second aspect that would strongly improve the election is single-member districts. These single members would be voted upon by their own district, not by the county at large. That would make members responsible to their districts. Who can forget Toya Green's (yes, vetted as "highly-qualfied" by Bill Lewis) response to her District 20 constituency: "I don't represent you!"

It's time to stop pretending that the population of the county is so small that voters in Mt. Pleasant know who is the best person to represent North Charleston. The system as it is allows the Chamber of Commerce and its lackeys to control outcomes in many areas. What just happened in North Charleston, where Mt. Pleasant supporters (and the Chamber) put Cindy Bohn Coats over the top North Charleston vote-getter Shante Ellis, is a case in point.

Part of the solution is better communication within the county about what the candidates stand for. Evidently, we can't depend upon our local newspaper or television outlets for full information. Perhaps its lack of interest (or collusion) in local races is part of the reason that the Post and Courier has become a dinosaur.

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