by Senator Scott McCoy
Senate District Two
Rep. Carl Wimmer is floating a bill that would increase the size of the State Board of Education from its current 15 members to 29 members. It would model the 29 board positions on the current 29 state senate districts. Worst of all, it would require candidates for the State Board of Education to declare party affiliations and subject these candidates to the political convention process (and ultimately straight party ticket voting).
Wimmer’s bill is a solution in search of a problem. The reason this bill is being sought is simple: the State School Board has shown itself to be a truly independent, nonpartisan governmental entity. This, of course, raises the ire of the current Republican leadership because the State School Board has refused to say “how high?” when the Republican leadership says “jump!” The nerve! We have discovered a governmental institution (a constitutionally established one at that) that refuses to mindlessly answer the beck and call of the Republican leadership. Isn’t it obvious that if we don’t reign in this uppity institution, other state agencies and institutions might start getting similar ideas. So how do we get this errant institution back under the thumb? One way is to make sure we pack it with individuals more beholden to Republican leadership than the people who Republican leadership has picked for them to represent.
If Wimmer’s bill were to succeed, then the State Board of Education would simply become another partisan arm of the Republican leadership subject to their gerrymandering and the extremism of the party’s delegates. No longer would sound independent legal analysis and public policy rule the day. One need only look to the most recent voucher controversy to understand this. In that case, instead of the legal analysis that HB 174 was meaningless without HB 148 (a position proffered by an independent State Board and endorsed unanimously by the state’s highest court), we would have the flawed legal reasoning of the Attorney General and the Republican leadership being implemented, resulting in an illegal and unwanted taxpayer funded voucher program.
Politicizing the State School Board will not result in better education for our kids. It will only result in Republican leadership getting their way, right or (mostly) wrong, once again.