CC by-sa 2.0 Wesley Fryer
Issues, Kansas, Politics

Board to Death

I could really use a hand in having someone explain to me what Topeka’s fascination is with disrupting education. Not improving it, not experimenting on it, but just straight up disruption. It’s like a cook at McDonald’s that’s discovered truffle oil. We bitch and moan about the Federal Government getting overly involved in state and local affairs, but we forget that our state governments are literally just as bad about it. An outhouse by any other name…

No, I’m not talking about punishing teachers for distributing “harmful” material (frankly, I look forward to seeing that one in court). No, turns out they’re already prepared for a whole new kind of asinine. Enter HB2345. The “Only Non-Educators Can School Board” bill. Yet one more jewel in the crown that is Topeka’s creation of solutions in search of problems. Sigh.

It was introduced anonymously in the Judiciary Committee before being transferred to [Rep. Ron Highland’s] committee.
Bill would prevent teachers, relatives from running for school board, The Wichita Eagle

Let me start out by pointing out one of the most glaringly obvious issues with this bill. It was submitted anonymously. Can we just get it out of the way that per house procedure, this practice should be banned? If there’s one thing I’d love to do, it’d be to ask the author just what systemic problem they’re actually trying to solve with this bill. If you aren’t willing to put your name to it, if you aren’t willing to acknowledge where it came from, then you don’t respect your position enough to keep it. Fearful of the repercussions? Then write good, helpful, constructive legislation that addresses real problems and issues in a meaningful way. Otherwise you don’t wear the big-boy pants needed to represent us in government. Period.

With that out of the way, let’s get on to one of the more obvious criticisms of government and education. There’s too much of it involved. See, when you have a building full of people in Topeka writing laws, rules, and regulations to control a system in which many of them have never spent a day of their life involved in, that creates issues. When you don’t spend time in a school, sit in front of children, work with them on a day to day basis, it really gives you an enormously dangerous lack of perspective when it comes to determining what’s right or good for the system. So, do you want to serve on a school board? If HB2345 passes, here’s a list of the folks who couldn’t serve (note: part C is really my favorite):

  1. “Conflict of interest” means a person who:
    1. Has a substantial interest in any business that works directly with or provides services to this state or the school district in which such person resides;
    2. holds a position of administrator, teacher or employee of a school district or the state department of education;
    3. resides in a home where an employee of a school district or the department of education also resides; or
    4. has a spouse, sibling or parent who is an employee of a school district or the department of education.

House Bill 2345, lines 24-33

So here we are, with Topeka about to review a bill that would amplify that problem by an order of magnitude. Imagine, especially, the impact that this would have on small town and many Western Kansas school districts where there isn’t a huge population to draw on to begin with. People want to serve on school boards, in theory, because they care about education. That caring comes from either having been involved themselves, or having family and friends involved. Under HB2345 though, that’s now a bad thing. Because reasons. Instead, they’d have people installed at the local level with no connection to education. Just more people who feel like it’s a good chance to grab some power. I get it that you want to avoid impropriety on the boards and prevent conflicts of interest and such. How about let the local districts set the standard they feel necessary to accomplish that, though? After all, Kansas City faces very different problems from Colby, for instance. I don’t exactly see school districts lining up complaining this is a problem though. If it is, then they are perfectly equipped to handle it municipally.

Hell, Topeka should feel lucky that people still want to serve on school boards at all with the way they’ve approached education the past few years. The ones that have stuck it out are the ones that really give a fuck, and now it looks like they’re going to try to push those people out, too. It’s just getting really hard to understand what The Plan here is. Some people thrive on chaos, sure. Since when is that something we want to stake the future of our children on though?

The bad part is, had this bill been kept reasonable, and limited the restriction to just spouses, for instance, I could probably get behind it. I mean, there is a certain logic to the idea that the spouse of a teacher may not always operate in the interests of the greater good. At least, if it was the same district their spouse taught at. But once you start extending that restriction to any district, and bundle in absurd disqualifiers like roommates, it becomes a bird of a different feather. At the end of the day, it’s not like Kansas Republicans are sitting around a table, drinking scotch, brainstorming how to destroy the public education system in Kansas. I don’t believe that, and I think various hyperbole to that end isn’t constructive. But what that leadership needs to realize is that whatever they are doing, they aren’t articulating to The People just what, exactly, The Plan here is. Personally, I think it’s because there really just isn’t a plan, and they don’t want to admit it. That’s not evil in the supervillian sense, it’s just sort of sad and shameful, and exposes an enormous lack of leadership qualities among those behind these kinds of bills.

So yeah, I guess I get it. If I were producing legislation with this level of crap quality, I wouldn’t want my name attached to it either.

(Photo Credit: CC by-sa 2.0 Wesley Fryer)