Thursday, January 28, 2016

Charleston County School Board Elections Matter; System Stinks

Louis Weinstein, MD, former president of a school board in Toledo, Ohio, and former write-in candidate for the CCSD Board of Trustees, is not happy. He wants Charleston County voters to take school board elections seriously. As he pointed out in a recent Letter to the Editor, at the moment "in Charleston we have schools that are more segregated than they were 30 years ago, a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, a large number of students who cannot read at their appropriate grade level and SLED investigating a fraud-type complaint regarding district funds within the Charleston County School District."

And who's to blame? Well, Dr. Weinstein, mostly our stupid system.

First of all, is there any selection process for nominees for school board? The ostensible answer is no, but the reality is yes. You see, candidates seem to represent no one but themselves, but in reality many represent special interests, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Democrat party, and the education bureaucracy. Most have no experience with analyzing and approving multi-million-dollar school expenditures and so spin their wheels trying to figure out what's going on or take on faith the august advice of others, such as the superintendent and chief financial officer.

Once elected, school board trustees can successfully ignore the areas of the county they ostensibly represent. Does anyone believe that former member Toya Hampton-Green's comment to District 20 (the peninsula) that she doesn't represent them is an anomaly? After all, voters in Mt. Pleasant can guarantee the election of the North Charleston members that Mt. Pleasant desires. It's already happened with Cindy Bohn Coats. Is it any wonder that North Charleston's schools (no, not those magnets filled with Mt. Pleasant students) have among the worst statistics in the district? Who's really looking out for them?

Besides financial ignorance, what're the educational philosophies of those elected? We never know, do we?

What we do know is that school boards are where liberals hang out, especially in mostly Republican districts. You'll need to ask yourself if being a liberal or conservative affects the way you view education and the administration of local schools. Well, Common Core comes to mind. South Carolina and our last superintendent blindly followed the US Department of Education's guidelines on this issue so that they could qualify for Race to the Top funds. Was that beneficial or not?

If candidates for school board were required to run in a political primary, the local organizations potentially could recruit those well-qualified. It's a dirty little secret, actually not so secret, that they put up their own slates now. Too many voters are lulled into a sense that the position is not political, say, like being mayor of Charleston. Tell us another one.

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