After being rejected by a committee to select candidates for State Board of Education, I came home to get a little sympathy from my wife, and all I got was, "See, they do have standards after all." Eight years later, I'm still attending my self-esteem therapy group.

But I did get a glowing letter from the chairman of the committee telling me, "It is rare to meet a man of your ... stature ... you are qualified, capable and have demonstrated your ability to bring about social change ... (willing) to take a stand for what you believe." And then the but, "The nominating committee perceived your domineering style might challenge the logistics and operational effectiveness of the State School Board." So my wife was right, they do have standards; they want someone to get along, don't take a stand and just let administrators intimidate with a mountain of studies, statistics and endless regulations designed to protect the system from criticism.

My therapy group tells me I should just keep looking in the mirror saying, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and by golly, people like me." Looking in the mirror is the hard part. Call it sour grapes, but I still think the method of selecting State School Board members stinks. I have come to wonder, except for the state constitution, why do we even have a State School Board? It's just another ponzi scheme with different levels of bureaucracies where the last one gets stuck with the bill — the taxpayer.

The committee that rejected me was made up of the usual suspects — the "stakeholders" — administrators, PTA, union, board member, teacher and a public member — who then recommended names for the governor to decide who could run for the coveted office. Now, we have legislators coming up with ideas from their special-interest groups on how to improve the candidate-selection process. One legislator wanted board members selected by political parties. He claimed it would solve the problem over the lack of candidates applying for the school board, arguing that "It's not partisanship that's driving it." Give voters a break. It's just another power grab without considering the state's interest.

Under the state constitution, the Legislature is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of public education, and the State School Board is responsible for the general control and supervision. Taxpayers need to tell legislators the myriad bureaucratic hoops they have created look like a way of dodging any accountability when things go wrong.

I hate to keep challenging "the logistics of the operation," but the current education system was designed for an old economy, and lawmakers seem to be content with adding more regulations that further bog down the system, making it more costly and inefficient. While legislators blame administrators and teachers for the system's failures, they are the ones that have the constitutional responsibility for the "establishment and maintenance" of our public education. They seem content to be maintenance folks rather than keeping our institutions responsive to change as the founders intended.

For starters, how about having a five-member State School Board, where candidates file on their own and are selected by the voters; then realign the board's duties similar to the high-performance management systems corporations had to adopt to keep pace with change. Legislators ought to consider adopting the recommendations found in the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce report, which can be seen at skillscommission.org.

Just don't expect the current Legislature to do anything different that would renew our education system for today's global economy. Change comes from those outside the system, and citizens have to do it. We should elect legislators who have the will to do so and propose ways to do it. How about standards for politicians?


A Utah native, John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations; been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch; served on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards; and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and as a member of the Commission on Hispanic Education. E-mail: [email protected]