The school board briefly touched on the FSBA Legislative Platform at our most recent workshop. The platform is the framework of general beliefs of the organization that the membership votes on, and that is eventually disseminated to members and legislators throughout the state.
In general, I am in agreement with most of the document. My key areas of disagreement, which I discussed briefly at the last workshop, are these two issues:
1. The support for the expansion of federally funded VPK for 3 and 4 year olds. My issue is twofold with this one. First, I want less Government control over local decisions, to include preschool. Asking for more money equals asking for more Federal Government top-down, underfunded mandates. Second, from the studies I have read, achievement among similarly situated students who attended VPK before kindergarten when compared to students who did not attend VPK cannot be distinguished once these students all reach third grade. Any positive benefits are statistically negligible. As I said in the meeting, it is more of a jobs program, and therefore will not be touched by policymakers-regardless of the results. My rhetorical question, though, is this: if it is statistically neutral, why are we spending billions per year of taxpayer monies funding it? And why, therefore, should FSBA be clamoring for more of this federal spending? As I mentioned, it is a huge job generator nationwide, and because it “seems” like it should be beneficial, people just naturally assume it to be—like lowering class sizes and increasing funding as drivers of better public school performance. (Seems like it ought to work, so let’s push for more of it!)
2. The idea of taxing internet sales—I’m extremely leery of this one, to put it mildly. First off-I kind of like having a zero-tax shopping alternative, that being the internet. Secondly, from a business standpoint, asking a company that is based in Vermont to know all the nuanced local taxing regulations of every state and municipality in the USA is a lot to ask. It will be extremely burdensome and expensive to some of these internet companies, and may push some into insolvency or non-compliance. Secondly, the statement that “brick and mortar local companies can’t compete, and they have to pay taxes!” is only partially right. For one thing, a local “brick and mortar” retail store consumes local government services, i.e. the employees of such stores use our schools, roads, emergency services, social services, etc. Customers of these “brick and mortar” retailers use our roads, sidewalks, and highways—internet customers do not. These brick and mortar local employees are paid lower salaries than many (most) other industries. An internet retailer uses no local services, yet has a hand in employing local workers via the delivery services utilized to deliver their products. It is a complex issue—but I lean strongly toward remaining status quo on this one….
With the exception of these two items, I am in general agreement with most of the rest of this platform. Over the next few days we have been asked to add some of our own ideas for consideration as additions to the platform. I brought up one big one during last Wednesday’s meeting, that met with unanimous support.
1. No Texting and Driving:
We must unite behind the idea of a stiff penalty for texting and driving. In other states, most recently Alabama and California, the laws have been enacted. Texting and driving is causing thousands of accidents and a staggering number of deaths and injuries throughout our state yearly—and we simply must not ignore it any more.
Everyone in the room seemed to agree that adding a platform position for the banning of texting and driving would be beneficial to students and school districts.
One other platform position I will add is the following:
Compare Schools and Districts to Similar Districts Demographically Statewide:
Other states, most notably California, are already doing this and we should be as well. As a school board member in one of the largest, most poverty stricken and crime-ridden districts statewide, I’m tired of being compared to homogeneous, wealthy, and low-crime county school districts like Santa Rosa and St. Johns. Group and compare our schools and districts more fairly based upon a series of metrics which indicate and account for social blight and poverty. Perhaps we should compare districts based upon all the traditional metrics as well as the following:
a. percentages of Free and reduced lunch populations: (Compare schools that have 90% free lunch students to other schools that have a 90% free lunch demographic—so the comparisons can be levelized)
b. socioeconomically disadvantaged population: ( where a student comes from a single parent household or a household where neither parent has a H.S. Diploma or the family lives below the federally established poverty level
c. Ethnically Diverse Districts: (Compare similarly situated districts, with respect to ethnic diversity, instead of comparing all white districts to districts that are made up of large percentages of multiple ethnicities.
d. Add a county crime level metric to the comparisons, if possible (areas of high crime may have impacts socially that affect public schools acutely more than communities where crime rates are lower)