Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Choosing the Candidates

The Utah Taxpayers Blog has an article on the nomination process for the school board. They claim that the canidates for the board are chosen by the UEA (Utah Education Association). The general election is just a rubber stamp for the members chosen by the UEA. Since one stakeholder in education conrols the nomination process, they pretty much control the whole shebang. The fact that other stakeholders are cut out of the process is probably a major reason why the current trend is for parents to pull their students out of public schools and put them in Charter or Private Schools.

Some people want to make the school board nominations partisan. The different parties would put up candidates. So, I guess we would start seeing Republican School boards in republican districts and Democratic boards in Democratic controlled districts. Others don't like this reform because it makes yet another part of the system divided on the silly Republican/Democrat partisan rift. The big benefit of being partisan is that it would be easier for a person who wants to be on the board to run for the position.

I brought this up because it shows the type of decisions that need to be made in building a system that is open to public discourse. It seems to me that there should be other ways for a system to be open than the party system. You could allow nominations from more than just the UEA, or have an independent non-partisan primary.

6 comments:

Rob Latham said...

How about making those seats elected by proportional representation so candidates from outside the two incumbent political parties have a fair chance of being elected to one of those seats?

Reach Upward said...

Our current method of electing state school board members sounds something like the way the Politburo used to work in the USSR "elections". The process needs to be fixed, but is going partisan the way to do it? I like the idea of a non-partisan primary.

According to this article, proportional representation creates dysfunctional elected bodies.

Rob Latham said...

Beneficiaries of the incumbent regime may have a different understanding of what is meant by "dysfunctional" (e.g., power may cease operating to their individual benefit) than the rest of us do. So Mr. Utley's defense of the status quo, which ignores counter-examples such as the economic success of Ireland ("the Celtic Tiger") and its use of proportional representation through the Single Transferable Vote method -- is understandable.

Proportional representation elections do not have to be partisan. Indeed, the City of Cambridge's Election Commission administers its City Council elections in a non-partisan way.

The City of Cambridge received good or excellent ratings from 62 percent of its residents in a recent survey, and 86 percent rate their quality of life and Cambridge as a place to live as good or excellent.

y-intercept said...

My thoughts are that we should have different voting mechanisms at different levels of society.

I am not sure if proportional representation is the best thing for School Boards. Unlike a legislature where you want the legislative body to be representative of the society at large, the school board should be weighted toward the people who use the schools. So you would want preference toward the academic community, and the parents. Personally, I think it would be cool if the students got to vote for the board as well.

The business community would want to give some input on the skills needed by the society.

The school board is a little bit like a business board of directors. You want to have some filters that give preference to the stakeholders. The UEN model gives complete control to only one stakeholder.

The cambridge model looks like it would be best suited for a city government, or even a legislature.

Rob Latham said...

Everyone is a stakeholder in the government schools, at least if one believes the UEA's claim that they are "our public schools."

I disagree with that characterization. If I'm an "investor" in the government schools, to whom may I sell my shares?

The school board in Amarillo, Texas uses a form of proportional representation called "cumulative voting." And Cambridge, Massachusetts also uses proportional representation to elect members to its school committee.

Corporations also routinely provide proportional representation on their Boards of Directors based on share ownership.

See, e.g.,

Form 8-K for BIOMET INC, June 7, 2007

General Investment Authority (Yemen), Article 51

But see

(Proportional representation offered to avoid hostile takeover)
http://www.secinfo.com/dsvrz.14q.htm#1stPage

(Hostile takeover bid succeeds, most of former board of directors replaced)
http://stlouis.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2004/03/22/daily54.html

y-intercept said...

rob,

your comments morph into a very strong argument against public ownership of schools. When you force the public to own the schools, then you create the situation where everyone is a stakeholder, rather than having a targetted stakeholder.

Of course, when you have confused ownership, you open the doors to a group like the UEN that reads a book on Marx and declare "We are the peoples," then take control