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Keep partisan politics out of school boards and local government

The framers of the Wisconsin constitution were an idealistic group.

They dreamed of a state where education would be forever free and accessible to all. Where people didn’t have to declare a party to participate in elections and where ideas and individuals counted more than party membership.

The crafters of Wisconsin’s constitution recognized that while there may be differing viewpoints and lively debate, there should always be the spirit of a common purpose with no room for political machinations, particularly when it comes to education and local government. For this reason, school boards and county and municipal governments are all nonpartisan.

The concept is a simple one, the needs of the community should not be viewed in the lens of scoring points for party platforms or the scorched earth gamesmanship that has divided the state and country for too long.

Unfortunately, in an increasingly desperate attempt to retain relevancy, there are political pundits who seek to politicize school boards in particular. This has been most evident in orchestrated attacks on boards around the state. Most recently the attacks have focused on school boards’ attempts to balance the desire to return to normal with very real concerns over safety and well-being of students and their families The issues are complex and vary from community to community and school to school. What may work in Cadott or Rib Lake may not be practical in a place like Madison, Milwaukee or Eau Claire. Politics gets even further removed from pragmatic reality when Washington, D.C. based operatives flood email boxes and social media platforms with top down solutions that have little regard for the needs or desires of rural Wisconsin.

School board members must take input from all their constituents and make decisions that look out for the best interests of the students in their schools. This is their charge and the mandate under which they work.

Rather than this bottom-up approach with boards working together to make the best choices they can, there is a scary march toward authoritarianism with the steady push for top-down national solutions and the vilification of compromise and common sense. Wisconsin must not sacrifice public education on the altar of partisanship no matter its trappings.

This is just the latest round of coordinated attacks to attempt to undermine support and trust in traditional free public education. There are many who have sought to vilify teachers, principals and those who labor to help prepare the next generation of students for the future.

When it comes to local governments, and particularly school boards, citizens need to stand up and stop the creeping rot of partisanship and look for ways to work together.