Let The Voters Decide Future School Board Selection In Prince Edward

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors should authorize a referendum on whether the County should begin electing School Board members or continue the policy of appointment by Supervisors.

Whether one supports or opposes elected School Board members (and I support elected School Boards) there is no credible reason not to allow the people of Prince Edward—the government and its school system belong to them—to decide the issue.

There is no more important governmental responsibility in the county than providing the best possible public school system. There is, in fact, no other duty as important.

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So let the people decide whether they want to elect School Board members or not.

The Board of Supervisors cannot be afraid of the voice of the people for it is that voice which elects, reelects, or removes them from office.

The Board of Supervisors cannot question the wisdom of allowing the people to vote on a School Board selection-determining referendum because the wisdom of the voters is wise enough to decide the supervisors’ political fate.

In fact, the Board of Supervisors, logically, should campaign on behalf of elected School Boards. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Any argument against electing School Board members is also an argument against electing Boards of Supervisors, Presidents, Town Council members, Senators and everyone else. One-issue candidates? We have them run, and get elected, governor of Virginia.

There is no credible argument against the people—for whom, Lincoln famously said at Gettysburg, the government is of and by and for—actually being granted the same electoral rights in deciding leadership for the exercise of responsibility of the most important duty of County government—its public school system.

If government in this nation is of and by and for the people then get out of their way and let them decide, in Prince Edward County, how they want their School Board members selected.

Some people argue against elected School Boards, saying they want to keep politics out of the School Board selection process. Malarkey. Perhaps well-meaning malarkey but malarkey, nonetheless. Prince Edward’s School Board selection process is inherently political because you have politicians making the final appointment decision. Every decision a politician, individually, and politicians, collectively, make is a political decision.

Furthermore, the past year or so has seen Prince Edward County’s Board of Supervisors rattling their appointed School Board’s chain, and emphasizing their grip upon it, going into executive, closed, sessions to discuss the performance of the School Board. I have been here since 1979 and I can recall nothing like that ever happening. For me, there was a chilling effect, intended by the Board of Supervisors or not. Big Boss and Big Brother stuff is how it seemed to me.

Elected School Boards would answer only to the people, who would hold the electoral leash rather than rattle appointive chains.

There are many other points which could be made in favor of allowing the people to decide, by referendum, how Prince Edward County selects its School Board members—and for the people choosing to do so—but let’s end on a low note:

If School Board members are elected by the people there would be no more heads-or-tails coin tosses by the Board of Supervisors to break ties and decide something as important as who will be appointed by them to the Prince Edward County School Board.

Keep the coins in your pockets.

Let the people use their heads, instead.