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Another disappointing school board election

To the Editor:

Once again the NEA has managed to hi-jack the county school board elections.

My belief is a candidate must be liberal and support the NEA’s doctrine to get their endorsement. Convicted felon? That’s OK as long as he meets the criteria. The NEA has managed to stack every school board in the county with liberal-leaning people. How does that happen in a predominantly Republican voting constituency?

I believe there a number of reasons. The elections are in April and many people do not vote. The NEA uses its influence to get the teachers out to vote. The NEA backs certain candidates with financial assistance. Stacking the boards gets NEA-favorable decisions.

The biggest reason in my view is that the April ballots cannot indicate a candidates’ political affiliation. I understand the logic behind that decision. The offices in these April elections are to be non-partisan. In fact the Missouri Constitution indicates so. But the reality is they are partisan.

I do not believe the county school boards represent the majority of constituents. Most constituents do not want the boards to spend more than they take in but Francis Howell has a $22 million deficit. Wentzville has a $7 million deficit.

Most constituents did not want the boards to bring in Common Core, but it’s here and districts continue its implementation.

James Shuls, assistant professor at UMSL, writes: “As the Show-Me Institute’s Brittany Wagner has written before, teachers’ unions are a special interest group that can have significant sway in elections. Teachers’ unions may be the sole special interest group active in local school district elections. The Wentzville School District has more than 1,800 employees, roughly half of which are certified teachers. Even in a relatively large district such as Wentzville, this can be more than enough to sway the vote when, as in the April 7th election, only a fraction of registered voters bothered to vote. The two candidates endorsed by the WNEA were victorious in the election and received almost the same number of votes. This fact leads to another question: Should we be concerned that when the union sits down to bargain with the school district, there are school board members whom the WNEA helped elect?

Dues-paying union members have no say in which political causes their dues support. Would most WNEA members have wanted any portion of their dues to be used to support Michael Feinstein for the  Wentzville Board of Education?

This incident illustrates why Missouri should reconsider how we elect school board members and how those members interact with unions in their districts.

For example, should school board elections be in November where turnout is greater? Should collective bargaining negotiations be open to the public, not behind closed doors? Should public-sector unions have to make annual financial filings, just like private-sector unions, so their members and the public can know where union political support is going? Finally, shouldn’t teachers who want to be in the union for professional development and liability insurance purposes have the option before paying any dues to limit their payments to fund only those activities and not the union’s political activity?

These types of reforms may not prevent the election of convicted felons, but they would go a long way to ensuring taxpayers have a seat at the table when it comes to their local schools.

Joseph A. Tortorici

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