Sunlight and election questions

The plight of newspapers is well known; how information about important topics like school board races is disseminated and reviewed by voters is both incredibly important and in real flux. How does the public – especially a younger demographic less likely to read newspapers — get in-depth information from candidates, especially on tough questions?

EdNews — with a staff whose news credentials are outstanding — sent all candidates for the Denver school board elections a questionnaire with some very pointed questions. How different candidates responded to this opportunity to reflect, consider, and publicly share their unedited views is a pretty good filter to judge how they might approach the office.

So, full story link and a quick summary follows – I encourage everyone to read the specific replies:

At-Large Seat: Candidates Christopher Scott and Mary Seawell both responded to the questionnaire.  There are some sharp and important differences here in both substance and approach, and both are worth reading: (see: Scott response, and Seawell response). Candidate Fard did not respond.

District 2: Candidate Ismael Garcia responded by answering the questions (Garcia response). Candidate Andrea Merida replied with a canned statement of little relevance to the questions (Merida’s statement).

District 3: Candidate and incumbent Board member Jeannie Kaplan chose to briefly explain her lack of a response.  I’m all for healthy disagreements, but I find it deeply troubling when a sitting board member — running unopposed no less — chooses not to answer a serious inquiry on important questions from an established news source. (Kaplan’s note).

District 4: Candidates Nate Easley and Vernon Jones both answered the questionnaire, and their responses are also worth reading: (Easley response, and Jones response). Candidates Clark, Mosby and Shumway did not respond.

What school board races need – particularly those held on off-election years, where turnout is low – is a healthy and vigorous debate on our public education system.  It is a considerable shame that five new candidates for the Board declined this chance to explain their views.  If you cannot commit to putting your views in writing for a wide audience, I confess I doubt you will do justice to these same issues if elected.

And I think incumbent candidates should have a higher standard.  A common critique of Kaplan’s board service — to which I subscribe — is that she has never articulated a core set of principals beyond mere platitudes (I’m pretty sure everyone in this election is “for kids”). Her refusal to answer questions from EdNews only reinforces this view.

Running unopposed, Kaplan has a remarkable opportunity in the next six weeks to make a strong case for what she believes are core principals in public education, how she might address the difficult issues, and how to accomplish her goals.  I doubt she will do so.  I hope she takes advantage of this opportunity and proves me utterly wrong.

I’m glad Mary Seawell, Christopher Scott, Ismael Garcia, Nate Easly and Vernon Jones are giving the public an opportunity to better understand the range of opinions in public education.  These are serious efforts to engage both their opponents and the larger public in this important debate, and regardless of the election outcome, that in itself is a noble effort.

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