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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I Lost Big But Am Proud Of Having Run

I just ran for a seat on my local school board and lost decisively. I received roughly 200 out of the 1300 votes cast. The overall vote count represents about 20% of the eligible voters in the town and indicates the general lack of interest in school board elections. Of course, a higher vote count may have resulted in the bigger loss by me. However, my guess is the voters who would prefer my small government approach in general were busy working, commuting and may not have children or jobs in the school system.

My town is suffering from the property tax plague rampant in New Jersey (nationally the 49th highest taxed citizenry, second to New York). I ran on a platform to closely monitor costs and cut where possible. This apparently did not resonate with the voters. The winners openly stated they felt the taxes were appropriate given the exceptional school system the town provides. I felt the high achievement was the pride of the town but likely came at a cost to average or late blooming students. Additionally, with our citizen's wealth, average median family income of $88,783 and a population that is 60% white and 30% Asian, is there any doubt that we would likely have a large number of high achieving students? With parents regardless of nationality and race paying for tutors and after-school programs, do the schools deserve all of the credit? From my vantage point, other factors than the schools deserve some of the credit.

Of course, I was advised that my role on the board would have little impact on the budgets given sky-rocketing energy costs, ingrained salary and benefits schedules for employees and the state mandated costs to serve the children with special needs. Maybe this advice was correct. But I wanted to see what I could do as a board member and begin to locate school board members in my Town and within the state with a like mind to pursue change.

Unfortunately, that will not occur.

The campaign had only one public event where the candidates could face the public. It was at a meeting of the local Democrat Party. The 4 candidates answered questions of the 60 attendees. While the questions largely centered on the budget and high taxes for seniors, I think I was dead with that group when one woman asked about my blog comment where I stated that I felt public schools were a monopoly and that we needed vouchers nationally. I advised the audience that of course the public schools were a monopoly, unless I had missed a competitive school system somewhere that parents could choose for their children to attend for free. And I admitted I was for vouchers especially for the inner cities where the public schools had failed the minorities attending them. My audience was a big government crowd and were not ready for that kind of message.

But I am proud of my answer.

I am also proud that I did not pander to the special interests. On the eve of the election, a group of parents with children with special education needs wrote the candidates and asked for their positions on spending for their children. The message was really whether we would commit to increased spending for special education. My answer that I would treat their children on a par with the needs of all children must not have been what they were looking for.

Therefore, I am free to pursue something I have a greater interest in doing. I want to join in the Friedman group in support of school vouchers. If anything will break the lock on public funds and the skyrocketing costs created by the collective bargaining agreements, it is this. I am also considering leaving the State of NJ for a cheaper cost of living (do they have satellite TV in Georgia?). I will also begin to attend these school board meetings to voice my protest whenever they lose sight of the costs of their decisions.

Last, I am proud to have run and made public many of my opinions. And I do thank the 200 voters who supported me.


At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just remember how many elections Lincoln lost before getting elected President and saving the Union.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah the infamous cinematic line...they couldn't handle the truth! I can only re-echo your sentiments and rue the perspective of our local populace. If there is one line around town when it comes to school budgets that's like fingernails on a chalkboard (intended) to me it's... "it's for the kids."

Well, welcome home even if it's "on your shield." Good fight, well done.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Mark Reynolds said...

My condolences to the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district. They lost out.

Maybe your role on the board would have little impact on cutting costs - but does it hurt to take a look at the budget with cuts in mind? The people of New Jersey must be making tons of money or just like giving it away, or both. How much can we be taxed before people say its enough.

You fought the good fight and put your ideas out there. Maybe some at the local Democrat meeting "heard" you and maybe your message may start to sink in or make them more receptive the next time they hear it. (as an aside - I know its a blue state, but you have more Republicans down in central Jersey than we do up here in Essex County, and in that regard I think its a shame the local Republicans didn't give the candidates an oppurtunity to speak. Although getting the Republicans organized to do anything in NJ is like pulling teeth)

To anonymous: Give them some of their own medicine: "It's for the kids" should be the line uttered when talking about school vouchers. Keeping the school system the way it is (as Mr. Phenes puts it "a government monopoly") is for the teachers and their unions - not for the kids.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger CapitalistPig said...

No doubt, a big loss for your community. Keep fighting the good fight!

At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neal, great job! I too am proud of you and immensely respect you for your views and not being afraid to voice them. We need straight shooters like you and more average joes in government, local, state and national. Keep up the good work. Bob C

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