End term limits for school board
In times like these, school board term limits are a bad idea. In the near future, it will cost a member of the school board the chance to be re-elected.
Fred Peirce‚ who served from 1997 to 2005, was off the board for one election cycle before being re-elected in an uncontested 2007 campaign. The Colorado Constitution, however, states that for terms to be considered nonconsecutive, there must be a four-year gap in between. So he cannot be on the ballot later this year, even though he stated in Thursday’s story, “I was quite prepared to run again.”
The recent discovery that his most recent election was illegal does not degrade his tenure. Rather, it casts doubt on a state law that is forcing an experienced board member to leave; that is a decision the voters should make.
But it’s not Peirce’s situation that is most alarming. Because of the term-limits policy, the board could ultimately comprise three new members and two members with only two years’ experience in 2014.
In most cases, we support the need for term limits – certainly for most elected officials, and especially those in Washington, D.C. We advocate for this school board exception because we live in extraordinary times when education funding is being deprioritized on a massive scale – and most of that is out of our control.
It’s all unpredictable, but here’s our best guess: Without a 180-degree change in attitude (and quick), our federal and state funding will decrease. This will increase pressure on local property taxes to keep our classrooms from overflowing and local education experiences to decline. As a result, there will be a tremendous amount of short-term pressure on our school board to navigate the complexities of school finances, as well as to find nontraditional funding mechanisms, just to keep the budgets balanced.
In other words, this could mean cutting programs, and eliminating teacher, staff and administrative positions. Finding locals to volunteer and be held accountable for these decisions also will be difficult.
To solve these impending problems, we need to develop policies that allow experienced board members the chance to remain in office if the voters so choose. Ending term limits would be a good start. The Board of Education will explore this topic at its Monday meeting, as state law does allow for the voters to redefine term limits.
Term limits are meant to encourage a variety of ideas and representation; in the case of the schools, they may be limiting our community’s ability to have the right board members making tough decisions. With the right leaders, we believe, our school district can continue progressing even as funding heads the way of Lehman Brothers.
The question is, will we allow it?
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