Saturday, November 6, 2010

Open Season

When you went to the polls this past Tuesday in either of the two townships served by Methacton School District, you were greeted by a sign that read as follows, courtesy of our local Democrat party:

First, aside from the obvious factual error - there are really five positions up for election in 2011, not four - the sign claimed that 'school board member is a non-partisan position'.  Really? Maybe it should be, but the truth is that they are elected positions, and the only way to get elected as a school board member is to petition to get on the ballot for one party or the other (or, as some do, cross-file and run under the banners of both parties, a process that I think really should be disallowed for any elected position,since it muddies the water as to what a candidate's true ideology is).

In fact, at the website for PSBA, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (, Federal employees are reminded that they are subject to the Hatch Act and barred from running for 'partisan elective office' such as for school board.  

This is not a homogenous position, nor should it be. I think we deserve to understand the political and fiscal philosophy that drives a potential school board member who is controlling a $91 million dollar budget made up of your federal, state and local tax dollars. Personally, recognizing that while we all want the best for our students,  I prefer to see fiscal conservatives in the seats who understand that we want the best education and resources we can afford, not someone who thinks this is still 2005 and every household in the district has unlimited affluence.

Now, if the Democrats are truly open to considering ANY qualified candidate, and endorsing them without requiring them to switch party affiliation, I'm all for it. In the past, there were qualified Republicans who were rebuffed by their own party in favor of  candidates who were Democrats until immediately prior to filing their petitions to run as Republicans, and who were clearly favored over the known fiscally conservative proclivities of the authentic Republican candidates because the former Democrats were believed to be more likely to push through approval and spending to build the new 5-6 school, which they ultimately did. Folks, that project alone is costing so much money that we will won't even begin to start paying down principal until 2018. That's 5 years AFTER my sophomore student graduates.
I certainly hope this isn't the case in these recessionary times, but perhaps those Republican candidates - some of whom are still interested in running - will find more support from the other side of the table than they got (or may get) from their own. I know our side doesn't exactly have people leaping out of the woodwork to take on the free-spending legacy left to us by some members of the current and immediate past school boards, and I have to believe this newfound openness to outsiders by the Democrats is at least in part driven by a similar lack of viable candidates on their side as well.

Whoever runs in 2011, candidates are needed who are not afraid to make some tough decisions over the next several years.The 2012 budget is already shaping up to have serious gaps, and increasing taxes at a time of high unemployment is not the answer. Difficult choices will have to be made about more services to be cut, and no matter what is done, people will be unhappy. Both parties should look to find candidates with the backbone to do it and the stomach for dealing with the grief it will cause.

By the way, if you're thinking of throwing your hat into the ring on either side of the ticket, you may never have less competition. Although you may find yourself running as a Republican endorsed by Democrats!

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