Tomorrow my column will run regarding the election for the West Bend School Board. Before it goes up, I have to get this off my chest because it’s been bugging me for a couple of weeks now. Here is a question and the candidates’ answers from the forum hosted by Concerned Citizens as recorded on Washington County Insider:
Q, is it important for public school board members to enroll their own students in the district?
a) TL, absolutely, you can best represent everyone
b) RM, it depends, if you want to send your student to parochial, then that shouldn’t preclude you from running
c) BM, yes they should be in the district
d) KS, can go both ways. Yes, it can be an advantage, but if they’re not, there could be richness of experience that is brought to the board
e) JD, prefer yes students in the district, it shows you believe in the product, you are more invested.
In preparation for my column, I met with each of the candidates and asked them all about their response. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, none of it made it into the column. The notion that school board members’ kids must attend the district’s schools betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the school board.
A public school district is an institution of the community for the benefit of the entire community. This is why we all pay taxes to support it despite the fact that most of the people in the community do not have kids attending the schools. We all support the local public school district because everyone in the community benefits from the education provided.
The school board is the community’s oversight organ of their school district. It is supposed to provide direction and oversight of the school district on behalf of the community who elect the school board members. The school board exists to represent the community. It is not an advocacy organization for the students, teachers, parents, administration, or any specific stakeholder group. As such, it is perfectly right and proper for school board members to come from all slices of the community including retirees whose kids are grown, people without any kids, people with kids in private school, people who home school their kids, and yes, people with kids in the district. The ideal school board has a diverse group of people representing the diversity of the community.
To say that school board members should put their kids in the district to demonstrate that they have “skin in the game” is insulting and wrong.