Political activity in the school districts

Some folks, in particular Silver Valley Unified School District board members, may remember my letter of May 25 describing political activity at SVUSD seeking to influence voter support for additional taxes in order to reduce the state deficit and so make it more likely that financial support for education remains at or above current high levels.

That activity was not only in contravention of California State Law, it was also forbidden by their own written School Board policy, resulting in a perhaps unfulfilled promise not to let it happen again.

Problem solved now? Not so fast.

At the November meeting of the Board, written policy was changed to allow such activity, as long as the activity is "...for informational purposes and does not attempt to influence voters... ."

Anyone who has engaged in much political activity at all is well aware that informational politics can be no different from direct advocacy, because such informational activity can be easily modified rhetorically to make the information nothing less than a yes or no voter recommendation.

And since California school districts and school boards are now little more than extensions of public service unions, there are some definite questions to be raised about school district attempts to control public money using public monies.

We already have school districts, SVUSD amongst them, lobbying at local, state, and national levels at considerable taxpayer expense. Not that other governmental agencies don't do the same, which is no less a travesty. Government using taxpayer money to lobby government? C'mon give us overburdened taxpayers a bit of a break here.

OK, what does it cost to do such advocacy just some travel expenses here and there, and maybe a little wining and dining, right? If that was the case, the process would be just as unethical but less burdensome. But the fact is that administrative costs of doing research, using staff time to support this lobbying cumulatively absorbs millions, billions of taxpayer dollars each year.

Because de facto political activity exists and is connived at by many government agencies doesn't make it or any other kind of governmental political advocacy ethical, including such activity justified by the recent policy change at SVUSD.

Voters that support such activity, in hopes of deriving some personal benefit from the process, are doing so at a tremendous cost, namely abdication of their responsibility to control government, letting the government control itself, instead of demanding that it be responsible to the people. Such voters, in essence, feed on themselves, much as they allow government to feed on itself.

Bob Vasseur, Newberry Springs