Colorado Civics Lessons

Tony Lewis, executive director of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, takes aim at the Colorado State Board of Education and administers a self-inflicted wound – and he does so even before his gun is out of its holster!

In his opening sentence Lewis asks, “When a statewide elected body fails to represent the people of Colorado, what action is left other than to replace it with a group that has both the wisdom and experience necessary to make important decisions? When an institution fails to fulfill its basic mission, fails the very people that are represented by it and fails in every attempt it makes to improve itself, what course of action is left but to dissolve it and to begin again?”

What to do, indeed. In fact, the benighted leaders and citizens of Colorado have created exactly the sort of mechanism and action that Lewis can’t quite put his finger on. They’re called “ELECTIONS.” And in Colorado they occur on a regularly scheduled basis. In fact, there is one coming up in seven months.

Imagine what would happen if we took Lewis’ advice and dissolved elected bodies every time we didn’t agree with it. His idea is practically parliamentary! Fortunately, we live in a Republican democracy.

Oddly, though, Lewis wants to do away with the elected board in the name of accountability, as if standing for election before the voters of your community is not the very essence of accountability. In the end, his proposal is not so much democratic, enlightened, or even logical….it’s tyrannical – calling for the dissolution of an elected body with which you don’t agree.

Lewis’ screed is the just the sort of contradictory and ill-conceived thinking that afflicts so-called educational policy experts when they stray from their classroom and curriculum comfort zones and dabble in the complex issues of school governance. I do agree with Lewis’ call for the need for highly qualified, thoughtful and committed people to oversee the state's education system (Colorado already has eight such individuals on the state board right now). A pity, though, that Lewis’ essay isn’t qualified, thoughtful or committed in its “solution” for improving Colorado’s public schools.

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