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The danger of making schools exclusive concern of parents, educators

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POSTED October 18, 2012 12:19 a.m.

By all accounts, the three individuals seeking election to the Area 1 set on the Manteca Unified School District board are fine individuals.

You must be a resident of the Area 1 - primarily Weston Ranch - to serve but voting is districtwide. That means the three individuals - Alison Ordner, Sam Fant, and Sharla Moore - have a herculean job to make their pitch with less than three weeks to go.

Personally, I haven’t made up my mind. And while I understand voters in such situations where they know little about candidates often have no choice but to go with their biases, I find eliminating an individual because they have no direct ties to Manteca Unified classrooms either as a parent, educator, employee or even a school volunteer a bit disconcerting.

I speak from personal experience. As a 19-year-old just a year out of high school I was elected to the Western Placer Unified School District board. It was primarily a door-to-door campaign that I did on my own including a brochure that dissected the financial shortcomings of a bond issue - complete with charts - that had repeatedly failed, faulty enrollment projections, and a list of reasons why I believed it failed and what needed to be done to gain support. The brochure had a short section that also infuriated district administration - I essentially challenged their assertion there was absolutely no drug problem at the high school campus.

I ended up being the top vote getter by a 400 vote margin in a field of six candidates including the incumbent.

During my first term on the board I had no less than a dozen people - obviously they didn’t vote for me - telling me I had no business being on the school board because I didn’t have kids in school.

After the first person said that to me I simply countered I pay taxes - income and sales - that fund education. I also had a stake in schools even if I didn’t have children as the education level of the general population impacts me in countless ways. Those run the gamut from the less likelihood people would need government assistance to the quality of the workforce that inspects everyone’s quality of life. I couldn’t counter, though, with hard cold facts that weren’t abstract so I did a little research.

Back in 1975, a study showed that a little less than 31 percent of the voting age population in California had children in school. It was a figure used in a university study examining the future of education funding and bond elections.

I do not know what the percentage is today but it is clear that schools can’t survive or thrive without the support of voters who do not have children in public schools.

The last thing educators should do - teachers, elected board members or administrators - is advance an argument that people who don’t have direct ties to school wouldn’t make good board members. I seriously doubt any ill is meant by such statements. But it does underscore one of the fundamental issues surrounding the future of public education in California.

Simply having a school system that is all inclusive when it comes to educating students isn’t enough. It must be all inclusive to the point voters regardless of their status - parents or childless - feel they have equal stakes in the outcome.

What’s at stake in our classrooms is no less as critical to the person who doesn’t have - or never will have - a child that is a student.

The term has been overused and politicized so much I hesitate to use it but it does, in a general sense, take a village to raise a child.

You can’t make that a given responsibility for everyone if somewhere along the line educators make the conscious decision to view parents as the primary stakeholders and everyone else as proverbial cows whose only role should be to sit quietly by while being milked for tax dollars to run the schools.



This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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