This Is What Democracy Looks Like?
A never-ending talking point of school choice foes is that public schools are “democratically controlled” and charter schools or private schools supported by vouchers are not. Tracing their argument back to the “Common Schools” that Horace Mann envisioned, they argue that elected school boards represent the will of the community and are the best safeguard of children and taxpayers.
On April 5, even though four seats on the Kansas City School Board are open, not a single name will appear on a ballot. One of those seats has already been filled because only one person qualified to run. No one qualified for the other three seats and they will thus have to be filled by write-in candidates.
Yes, one-third of the 9-member school board that controls a budget of $328 million will be write-ins. And this isn’t even the first time this has happened. Back in 2012, 3 of the 4 open seats were filled by write-in candidates.
This is not democracy. This is despondence.
Schools of choice are accountable to the families that send their children to them. No one in Kansas City has to send their child to a charter school. No one in states that have voucher programs have to use them. They can if they want to, if they find a school that meets their needs. The people in the best position to determine what is right for their children are the ones that are empowered to make the decisions.
Kansas City is the polar opposite of that. Whoever wins those seats were unable to find 250 people to sign a petition to get them on the ballot. They will be elected by the tiniest fraction of the community that they represent. They will have no mandate to hold schools accountable or to represent the community they live in.
And now comes the hard question: If we cannot recruit people willing to clear an incredibly low bar to be part of this body, why does it still exist?