Face it, we are all sick of government committees appointed by elected officials. I think it is always wise to seek input from all constituent groups on issues; but in the end, the people elected individuals to make tough decisions for the benefit of all. That’s why our Founders designed our government as a representative democracy. If we do not like the decisions of elected officials enough times, we get to vote those individuals out of office. Building consensus is a good strategy; abdicating to mob rule is a bad strategy. Forming a posse is also ill-advised, unless you are planning a remake of Tombstone.
Passing the buck is never the solution to tough issues. There are times when getting stakeholders from a cross-section of opinions together is helpful in understanding the issue and finding solutions to problems you may not know exists makes a lot of sense. In fact, a lack of proper knowledge of an issue results in the passage of bad policy and terrible legislation. Unfortunately, the objective seems to be for many politicians to punt the issue away for a period of time, so they can stay focused on other issues that interest them. The lack of a long-term agenda makes committee work a short-term solution. Rarely do we analyze for effectiveness and evaluate this committee process.
I had to laugh when I saw a Twitter post from Nashville Mayor David Briley when he said: “Together, we can build a focused, research-informed strategy to ensure all Nashville students, regardless of race or income, receive a great education” talking about his informal education advisors. You know, those “unelected people you didn’t vote into office.” What makes it worse, Mayor Briley hasn’t really stepped in to offer a strategy to ensure more efficient use of tax dollars in light of recent reports in local media involving Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). This does not include a recent sexual harassment settlement. Perhaps Mayor David Briley, Director of Schools Shawn Joseph, School Board Member Amy Frogge, Investigative Reporter Phil Williams and the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson should form a committee to ensure financial integrity in regards to MNPS’s financial operations and compliance with applicable statutes, rules and regulations, and/or its record of efficiency and effectiveness. Just a suggestion for Mayor Briley.
I tend to be agnostic when it comes to personalities or personnel. My time in the United States Marine Corps taught me the value of teamwork and working together for the collective good, with whomever is there. The objective is to educate children. Period. End of Discussion. If the Mayor of Nashville feels that the trained professionals at the Metro Nashville Public Schools and the elected School Board cannot address the issues of the lowest-performing schools in the district, why does he think the unelected “Kitchen Cabinet” he selected can do a better job? What can these nonprofit leaders and community advocates accomplish that professional educators in the MNPS system are not already doing? And why are those “leaders and advocates” not already doing it? Honestly, I think it is insulting.
Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, asked the multi-million-dollar question: “How did a system designed to provide government of, by, and for the people devolve into a system in which bureaucrats unaccountable to voters (though exquisitely accountable to political players and special interests) produce masses of law that was never voted on by an elected official?” It’s time to ask David Briley that question. We have witnessed enough suggestions by experts and committees. Maybe we should start listening to parents, teachers, and taxpayers? They are a pretty formidable committee when they get a voice. And then in the immortal words of Elvis Presley it will be time for “a little less conversation, a little more action.”
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.