Wednesday, April 2, 2014

No compensation, no service?

    A community’s most important job is to educate the next generation of citizens. So, what does it say that of approximately 16,741 adults in Blaine County, not one has stepped up to volunteer to fill a vacancy on the five-member Blaine County School District board of trustees?
    A vacancy was created in January when a trustee resigned. Just one person applied for the seat, but withdrew before he could be interviewed. The application period for volunteers is open again.
    State law does not provide for compensation of school board trustees beyond some compensation for travel and training. Granted, school boards are policy-making bodies and don’t take part in day-to-day school operations. Even so, the time required of a trustee can be daunting, and school issues can be difficult.
    Compare the zero compensation for trustees responsible for guiding good public education to the $81,900 a year the public pays Blaine County commissioners. The county commissioners direct a $30 million budget while school board trustees control an annual budget of $79.5 million. See a problem?
    The School District is the largest tax district in the county. Trustees see to the condition of eight schools, a bus system, 250 teachers, and 3,383 students and their parents. They are aided by professional school administrators, but their job is clearly no cakewalk.
    With 44 percent of Blaine County’s adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, it’s impossible that we are uninterested in good education. It is possible, however, that the area’s uncertain economy is making it difficult for potential board candidates to combine day jobs with the demands of volunteer service.
    That’s a problem the school board can’t solve, but the Idaho Legislature must—or risk the futures of the state’s most valuable assets, its kids.


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