Education best done by local people

By Clyde Davis

Since college graduation, it has been a point of pride, and practicality, for me to maintain my public school teaching credentials. In addition to teaching full time, I have had the chance to substitute frequently in a number of states, and in a number of districts within those states. Quality education is important to me, whether in the university, the public school, or the church.
“Done well” is the key phrase, to include a concept we learned in Educational Foundations. You may call it home rule, or whatever you wish, but it is the belief central to our public school system that the constituents of an area have the deciding voice in caring for their own school systems.
Just by way of illustrating, I taught in the community of Maple, Texas, southeast of Clovis. It had a school board composed of local farmers and business operators before it was consolidated in 2002.
Since the folks in Austin are only marginally familiar with that part of Northwest Texas, it was incumbent on the folks of Maple (or any other community) to make sure their voice was heard in the decision making process affecting public schools.
Speaking as an educator, it would be hard for me to have the highest confidence in a system where decisions were handed down from above without grassroots input. In a similar vein, I would have a hard time working under a superintendent or principal who had never been in the classroom.
It would also be difficult to relate to a leader who did not, and was not required to, attend to input from those placed in a cooperative capacity with him or her.
State Board of Education member Flora Sanchez (Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 13) highlights this lack of local input as a major problem in a proposed Constitutional amendment on the ballot Sept. 23.
Sanchez said a proposed new state board would simply be an advisory board. The newly revised secretary of education would serve — or be terminated — at the pleasure of the governor.
Keep in mind that in the current system the governor already chooses five of the board members — a fair enough number on a board of 15.
Even given the best of intentions, to my Eastern eyes, I wonder if our state is too large, and too diverse, to seat the power for our educational system too strongly in the hands of one person, especially one serving at the pleasure of any governor.
Take it from an English teacher — words can be manipulated. Read Amendment 1 carefully before you vote.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at
clyde_davis@yahoo.com