Normally, this being a state news site, school board contests are not my beat. But the Rockwood School District in West St. Louis County has a candidate so eminently unsuitable to serve on the board that I wanted to get the word out.
Judging by comments Michael Geller made at a League of Women Voters candidate forum on March 8th, he has an odd way of showing his concern for the district.
- Despite cutting $6.8 million in spending this year, the Rockwood district faces continuing budget shortfalls. All the other candidates said they would vote yes to place a bond issue on the ballot so that voters in the district could decide whether school taxes need to be raised. Not Geller. He would oppose allowing the district’s residents even to vote on that issue.
- Rockwood’s Talented and Gifted Program is a model for districts across the nation, and the other candidates spoke in its support. They also support special needs education. Not Geller. His talented child is enrolled in a private school, and his special needs child is in a boarding school. If a child doesn’t conform to a ‘one size fits all’ mold, the parents should pay to school him elsewhere.
- Except, wait. The parents should pay … unless they can get the taxpayers to do it for them. Mike Geller favors school vouchers. Vouchers would deprive public schools of desperately needed funds, using that money instead not only to pay for a private school for Mr. Geller’s gifted child or for boarding school for his special needs child, but also for putting children in religious schools.
Geller defended the idea of using public funds for religious schools by pointing out that “separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.” Yes and no. That exact phrase, it is true, does not occur in the Constitution. But the First Amendment implies it. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase when he wrote that the First Amendment erected a “wall of separation” between the church and the state. Who would have a better take on the intent of the framers of the Constitution: Thomas Jefferson or Michael Geller?
The majority of Rockwood School District voters, proud as they are of their schools, are unlikely to want their tax dollars going to religious schools or to private schools for the gifted or to boarding schools for special needs students. It would be overstating the case to say that voters would as soon have Gaddafi as the Superintendent of Schools as they would a board member who approves of vouchers, but you get the idea. Most Rockwood residents would reject Geller if they knew what he stood for.
Rockwood voters need to understand that Mike Geller is a stealth candidate, someone who would undermine the district’s superb schools. He is inserting far right political ideology into the race for an office that has always been nonpartisan. The NEA, very sensibly, does not endorse him. And the voters should turn a cold shoulder to him.