If Thole is Re-Elected, Will He Be Forced To Retire?
As regular readers of this blog know, George Thole, School Board Chair for District 834 was forced to miss an important $27 million dollar spending vote because there is a serious illness in his family. The question is, will Thole’s entirely appropriate attention to illness of a loved one compel him to give up his position on the School Board at some point in the future?
I hope not, and I assure the Thole family that they have my sincerest good wishes and prayers in this matter.
The problem is that the futures of hundreds of other local families also have to be considered in the upcoming election. As a result of the conservative policies and cuts to local school funding emanating from St. Paul, District 834 will face chronic financial shortages through the next year at least. Thole himself has compared the present economic situation in the District to the days of the Great Depression, World War II, and the school funding crises of the eighties.
The funding shortages are real. And as long as Tim Pawlenty and his Republicans continue to shift the school-funding burden from state taxes to local tax hikes and levies, the funding shortages will be chronic. School Board members will either be forced to beg more money from local voters (by selling them on supporting higher levies) or fight the Pawlenty administration policy.
This is why voters need to know that the candidates they support will be able to fulfill their terms--and that any persons serving on the Board will be elected by the voters, not appointed by other politicians as replacements for retiring members.
Board member Chris Kunze also missed the $27 million dollar spending vote. As previously noted in this blog, Kunze pleaded a personal business trip as an excuse to duck out of the voting. A pretty lame excuse, considering the amount of public money involved.
I suspect that in Kunze’s case, the motive for avoiding the vote was political cowardice. Kunze was faced with a tough decision—vote in favor of $27 million dollars in spending for school repairs (and take heat from the “we already spend too much on schools” conservatives) or vote against the expenditure (and take heat from practically everyone else.)
Faced with a tough decision, Kunze ducked out—even though he had stressed the importance of the spending issue in the pages of local newspapers just weeks before. This makes sense if Kunze’s political ambitions go beyond the School Board. If he runs for higher office in the future, he will be able to earn the applause of conservative, “no new taxes” voters by telling them that he “never voted for” $27 million dollars in school funding.
Finally, what do you think of the cynicism of a School Board that votes to cut bus transportation for district students--and then votes to restore it just prior to a School Board election? When they voted to cut school bus services (and at the same time charge local families for the same), they pleaded absolute financial necessity. But now, just before it’s time for us to vote, they restore those services. Is the Board just playing political games with school bus transportation for local kids--in order to improve re-election chances for its Chairman?