You can almost imagine one of Tony Soprano’s capos showing up representing the school board at the annual town meeting vote on the school budget. “Here’s how this thing’s gonna go. You’re gonna give us all the money we tell you to, and youse just gonna write the check, no questions asked. Capisce?”
A bill moving through the Legislature, one that will no doubt pass in a Democratic majority, will eliminate the automatic annual vote by cities and towns to approve the school budget giving local school officials freedom to spend any amount they choose with far less chance of being overruled. The bill would effectively allow school boards to set property taxes.
This is the latest in a string of efforts by Democrats to use their control of the State House to reshape society to their views. Many of these efforts have involved local public schools and are shrouded in the concept of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” — the Left’s Holy Trinity.
In most of these cases, however, these efforts are designed to accomplish anything but these three goals. Anyone who expresses a political point of view that differs with Gov. Janet Mills, teachers’ unions, or left-wing school board members or school administrators can expect to face the full force of state government denying them their rights.
Currently, each school committee in each district drafts a budget for the school year and sends it in the form of a request to the city council or town select board to put before the voters in that community for approval. If voters reject the proposal, the school board goes back to work and makes changes before resubmitting it for another vote.
In this way, the people whose property tax dollars actually fund K-12 public schools have a direct say in how much of their money will be spent and on what. At the same time, the school board must make a convincing, if not compelling case, for any increases in funding. Too often for some tastes, however, this vote results in a rejection of the budget, usually for too great an increase in spending. Democrats in the Legislature, for whom spending other peoples’ tax dollars is a favorite pastime, want to put an end to this financial discipline. Hence LD 1748.
Having watched more than one city or town reject a school budget or use the power of the purse to effect changes in policy they disliked, for example, Democrats want to exclude those who disagree with them by making it much harder to reject a school budget. And after seeing two left-wing school board members recalled in Oxford Hills, the same lawmakers are moving to make recall votes much harder to organize.
It is conceivable under this bill that the budget process can be delayed until after the start of the school year, requiring the district to use the budget from the previous year until a new one is passed. In the meantime, superintendents and principals, unaware of what their budget might end up being, would be unable to sign contracts with new teachers and staff. Despite the new law’s potential to paralyze a school district, Steven Bailey, executive Director of the Maine School Boards Association, speaking on behalf of his own group and the Maine School Superintendents Association, claimed that “superintendents and school board members of the respective associations see this as a positive step.”
The proposal, however, is a recipe for chaos, devised to make it harder for those who seek responsible school spending—and who actually provide the cash to fund it—to have a say in the budgetary process. A public vote is simple logic. Those who pay the bills should have a say in how that money is spent. This, however, is not how Democrats in Maine today see the process of government.
For Democrats, anyone who disagrees with their point of view must be excluded from the process. That’s why the two-year budget was passed without any Republican votes. And it’s why liberal lawmakers are backing reforms that will centralize power in school boards and limit democratic guardrails. While touting the importance of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Democrats are enforcing strict adherence to a specific political point of view. Rather than having their differing views respected, those who express diverse opinions are being excluded from the political and budgetary processes and denied the equity guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. They are systematically being removed from, rather than being included in, the open political process.
From the state budget to local school spending to the medical care a child receives in their public school, Democrats are using new state laws to exclude those who hold political views that differ from theirs and have shifted the battleground of ideas from the state capitol to Maine schools, using children as pawns in their political battles.
By using state laws to prevent those with differing political points of view from participating in legal and budgetary processes Democrats should be careful what they wish for. Eventually, these attempts to silence those with diverse views will end up before a judge or judges who swore to uphold the U.S. constitution… and meant it.