OPINION

BY MOLLY LAMAR

When school board candidates accept endorsements and contributions from the teachers’ union, how can it be anything but a conflict of interest?

As a former teacher and having spoken with many of my “teacher” friends, I don’t believe the teachers’ union should endorse or financially contribute to the campaign of any school board candidate. Additionally, I don’t think a board candidate should accept the unions’ money or endorsement. The union represents the teachers and board directors represent the stakeholders who elect them. These two bodies have to work out a “collective bargaining” agreement and the union has the best interest of its members in mind. How can any candidate who accepted a substantial amount of money from the group on the opposite side of the table, be a fair negotiator when it comes time to hammer out the details? Plain and simple…it’s a conflict of interest and shouldn’t be allowed.

For ordinary citizens, local school board elections are supposed to be how we democratically govern our schools. However, because the teachers’ union has grown to be so powerful and involved, it’s difficult for our school board to represent “the people,” like it was designed to do. Political agendas and special interests are given more weight in policy decisions than is warranted and democracy has ridden off into the sunset.

The following statute was written for larger political campaigns, but the same holds true when thinking about our local school board elections:

1-45-102. Legislative declaration. The people of the state of Colorado hereby find and declare that large campaign contributions to political candidates allow wealthy contributors and special interest groups to exercise a disproportionate level of influence over the political process; that large campaign contributions create the potential for corruption and the appearance of corruption; that the rising costs of campaigning for political office prevent qualified citizens from running for political office; and that the interests of the public are best served by limiting campaign contributions, establishing campaign spending limits, full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions, and strong enforcement of campaign laws.

When a school board works as it should, it’s an important part of a system of checks and balances that ensures parents and community members are informed and involved. The board’s biggest responsibilities are to hire the superintendent and work with the community to improve student achievement. Knowing there isn’t much oversight and because our school board is pretty powerful, voting for board members is very important. On November 2nd, registered voters living within the boundaries of the Cherry Creek School District, will have the opportunity to vote for the two open seats on the CCSD Board of Education.

As the time draws near to fill out ballots, it’s important to remember how a cozy relationship between the union and school board is unfair to children and families. As concerned parents we should be demanding a better education for our kids, more bang for our buck, and more communication and transparency from our school board.