IN THIS column today, I have a challenge to incumbent politicians before the election. Fix the Guam Education Policy Board or fix whatever you call the board that handles public education.
The names have changed so much it is hard to keep track. This is just a symptom of a larger problem.
If you really wonder what is wrong with public education on Guam, look no further than the elected school board. Education is the biggest policy item hands down. It has the biggest budget. It has the most employees. It affects the most number of concerned voting parents. And your elected leaders have thrown the onus of this incredible set of responsibilities to an ever-changing largely elected school board. This is just bad all around.
Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with the people who run for these elected positions. I am sure they have good intentions and are sincere. The real issue is the selection process. Just six candidates have applied for the six elected positions of the school board. Why should we have an election? Better yet, we should have an anti-election. Put an item on the ballot that allows the governor to simply appoint the best nine people possible to these positions and allow him to remove them if needed to appoint others. In effect, give voters a real choice in the 2012 elections; allow us to choose between this elected format or an appointed format. Electing six people who simply show up is not good policy.
As I have said before, I lost all faith in the elected school board format when the members failed to deal with Jonathan Toves following the 2002 elections. This model is so enfeebled that the elected members were tripping over themselves to be nice and deferential to this guy. He was elected with a pending criminal sexual conduct case that dated from 1996. By the way, Guam media was very aware of this before the election and simply failed to serve the community by providing voters with this information.
As part of a class project, we pulled the bulky election packet to run for the school board. For some odd reason, the Legislature has made it as hard to run for these minor school board offices as it is to run for senator, governor or other major offices. Candidates have to get a gaggle of signatures, police clearances, court clearances, campaign finance reports, and personal financial information. In effect, your leaders have so entangled the process to run for these offices that no normal parent would ever consider running for these positions. It is far better to allow the governor and the Legislature to pick the very best people possible for these positions. The board should also be allowed to change and adjust parts of the current laws governing the education policy area. The legislative micromanagement is stifling and is just another symptom of bad policy.
This concern became glaringly clear for me when my colleague and former governor of Chuuk State, Dr. Ansito Walter, was rejected for service on this school board. More than 10 percent of the students in public schools are from the FSM, so it is unfortunate Dr. Walter could not serve.
Of course the Legislature will not put this appointed choice format item on the ballot. It can be argued that elected leaders get more attention when education policy fails than when it succeeds. This item could be put on the ballot at low cost. “Prop 12B” is actually just a way to get input from the public on how to run things. But it takes courage to ask voters for their real opinions.