The GOP and school board elections

Smart, platform-supporting Republicans need to begin paying attention to their local school districts. Emphasis is on the words “smart” and “platform-supporting.”

If there was a real Republican Party in Illinois, evidence of it would be apparent on the hundreds of school boards across the state. Instead, except for very few exceptions, public school boards are dominated by teacher union-endorsed and other conflict-of-interest-ridden board members.

A letter to the editor in yesterday’s Daily Herald summed up that situation very well. An Aurora resident complained about the lack of credible choices on the ballot in district 204, as three of the candidates had sought and received the endorsement of local teacher unions.

“School board candidates seeking the endorsement and/or financial contributions by school district unions, and any other special interest group, has the potential of influencing, creating bias and/or the appearance of bias in future decisions made by school board members.

Seeking the endorsement of the very unions with whom you will later have to vote on contracts and benefits is preposterous. For all intents and purposes, these four candidates are the union.”

The letter writer pointed out another conflict of interest, as one of the candidate’s wife belongs to the union. The writer also asked,

“Do you want the same union mentality which bankrupted the American auto industry controlling your schools and raising your taxes?”

Some Republicans might want to hide behind the “non partisan” aspect of a school board elections. That’s baloney. The Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers are left wing interest groups that have agendas which mirror the Democratic Party’s agenda. If Republicans continue to cede the public schools to the political left, we’ll continue to get the bloated costs and the stagnant student achievement we’ve seen for decades.

Not all Republican involvement in a school board race is welcome, however. Remember the words “smart” and “platform-supporting” mentioned above.

Republican state representative Mike Tryon recently endorsed Mike Skala in the district 158 school board race against Larry Snow. Skala was defeated two years ago for good cause, and is attempting a return to the board.

The difference between Skala and incumbent Larry Snow is night and day, deception and transparency, tax increases and holding the line against irresponsible spending.

Skala lost his race two years ago in part because of his support of an unnecessary tax increase in the district. And speaking of conflicts of interest, Skala’s wife, a D-158 teacher and union official, received better than a 50% increase in four years.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Larry Snow regularly since he assisted efforts to reveal the truth about a tax increase referendum in the school district where I live (which adjoins his district). Larry’s knowledge of how school district administrators and board members work constantly to obfuscate is impressive.

Almost on cue, “opposition research” was conducted on Larry Snow, no doubt paid for by friends of teacher unions and their members. Like most of the work coming out of the teacher unions, the “research” is full of false and misleading information.

But that’s what opponents of the government school system have gotten used to. Anytime anyone dares to stand up and question their spending – it’s a shriek heard from one end of the school district to the other.

As Larry once told me, the system is set up to discourage participation from individuals seeking positive improvements. On the other hand, everything is in place to attract people who personally benefit from furthering the status quo.

One side has the resources and the teacher unions to promote their candidates. The other side consists primarily of tax paying citizens and concerned parents. Reformers do what they can to reach more voters – but they’re almost always outgunned by special interest money.

A revitalized and energized Republican Party can help. Only when there is a campaign support system for true reformers – will we start to see more credible and untainted school board candidates step up to run and serve.

School board members that take their duties lightly – or become worthless by deferring to school administrators or the unions – dominate our state’s 800+ districts.

Clearly state Rep. Tryon hasn’t had time to do so. Maybe Tryon is spending his time reading the blogs, where childish, greedy and of course anonymous union members bash Larry endlessly. Ironically, Tryon is also that county’s GOP chairman. When the party chairman endorses a guy like Skala, it probably tells you a lot about the condition of the Republican Party in that county.

Larry Snow is exactly the kind of professional that’s needed on school boards across the state. He is fearless in his efforts to bring attention to the often unprofessional management of our very expensive public school system.

©2009 John Francis Biver