School boards are among the least responsive representative bodies in our political system.
Part of the problem may be the size of the boards. In Pennsylvania, there are 9 members on a school board. It's easy to hide out for four years and fool voters into re-electing you. There's safety in numbers. If you're one of 7 board members who voted for a tax hike, it's difficult for voters to single you out.
School boards also have the option of taking the easy way out of tough decisions by saying they were following the recommendation of the administration.
The reason property taxes are so out of control in Pennsylvania is because of the poor decisions made by school boards. They don't know how to manage money and in almost every case, school boards have forgotten that they represent the residents of a particular school district. In almost every case, school board members answer to the administration, not the other way around. I hear cases all the time about charismatic superintendents who have school board members wrapped around their fingers.
Administrators, most of whom don't live in the district they work in, have no qualms about spending other people's money. Most school board just rubber-stamp what administrators want.
It's difficult to make changes on school boards. And the ability to cross-file in primary elections gives incumbents the edge toward re-election.
That's not to say that change in impossible. In Pottstown, for example, all five incumbent school board members seeking re-election were defeated by challengers in the May primary. The issue that prompted the wholesale turnover was the school board's desire to close all the school buildings in Pottstown and build a $54 million central campus. The residents of Pottstown didn't like the idea. The school board ignored the wishes of the residents and pushed for the central campus. All five incumbents were tossed out by the voters.
It is possible for residents to regain some control over runaway school boards. There are two area school districts that I know of were taxpayers' groups have endorsed candidates for school boards.
In the Owen J. Roberts School District in Northern Chester County, the local taxpayers' association has endorsed five candidates for the Nov. 6 election.
Owen J. Roberts Taxpayers' Association President Eugene Endress says his group is supporting Debbie Eddinger, Debbie Bissland, Jack Kane, Keith Fulmer and Rose Bilinski.
Parents and Taxpayers United is supporting three candidates for the Antietam School District in Berks County: Judy Swartz, Jerry Palamara and John Fielding.