One myth consistently put forward when discussing the merits of an appointed versus elected school board is that an elected board would introduce politics into the educational process. It is not a question of politics, but more a question of accountability.
Whenever you have a board of individuals deciding on the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars, an elected body of individuals such as a city council choosing who will serve on this board, and you have a body of elected officials such as the Porter County Council, which was recently mandated by the state to approve the budget of Valparaiso schools’ appointed school board, you already have a political situation.
It is for these reasons the questions is not one of politics, but one of accountability and I know of no better way for one to be held accountable for their actions and positions than asking for the publics’ vote. The Valparaiso School Board is one of only 12 out of 293 districts that is appointed. Currently, Valparaiso parents have no recourse to remove the school board members when it is clear the course they have taken is unacceptable.
Recently, I, along with four other County Council members, voted to encourage Valparaiso Community Schools to move to an elected board. I see no better instrument to ensure that the voices of our parents and taxpayers are heard, than that of direct democracy.
I believe anyone who examines the situation should draw the same conclusion, that more levels of officeholders and bureaucrats that come between the people and those making decisions about their children’s education and the spending of tax dollars divests parents of their direct voice in the education process of their children.
Whether everyone agrees with the state mandate that the County Council approve the Valpo school budget is of no consequence to me. We simply can’t take this mandate lightly.
Considering the recent audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts that revealed numerous errors and missteps by the board, such as the no-bid purchase of a JumboTron video screen, the failure of certain board members to file conflict-of-interest disclosures and the complete lack of written policies on the use of credit cards and travel expenses, I as a County Council member would not put my name to any budget without first having an independent audit of school district expenditures.
The politicians can argue over the politics of the matter until blue in the face. So long as I am expected to place my seal of approval on the budget, I will not be a rubber stamp when the well-being of Valparaiso schoolchildren is at stake.
Dan Whitten is a memVaber of the Porter County Council. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.