Wednesday, November 19, 2014

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

I will venture a guess that every school district in Kansas has bought a vehicle in the past few years. Most likely you have purchased a suburban-type vehicle for transporting students. If your community has a car dealership, you were forced to make a choice: buy the vehicle off the state bid list, buy the vehicle from your local dealer, or buy your vehicle from a neighboring community dealer. <

The state bid list is easy, and usually cheapest. The state has done all of the work, so you don’t even have to go through the formal bid process. Just order the vehicle you want, write the check, and they deliver the car. Oh, and then wait for the call…

Dealer: Mr/s Board Member? Yes, this is John from John’s New Suburban and Expedition Dealership calling. I noticed the board purchased a new vehicle from the state bid list. I don’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to bid on that. Sure, I know I probably can’t beat the bid, but I can come close enough to meet the bid exception rule.

You: I understand John, but we are trying to be as efficient as possible. We buy two vehicles a year and save $1500. We can put that extra money right into the classroom.

Dealer: Saving money is important and I want my tax dollars spent as efficiently as possible. Please keep in mind though that I employ 25 people, and all of their kids attend our local schools. My own kids attend the high school and I serve on the high school site council. My wife and I both donated money to the Vote Yes campaign to build the new elementary school last year. Every year we donate a vehicle to the high school good student raffle. My employees get time off to volunteer in their kid’s schools, and when you don’t patronize local businesses you make it hard for me to do all of these things.

You: Gosh John, you have really given me some things to think about. Thanks for the call.

Not every district has a car dealership, but nearly all districts have local vendors who sell insurance, gasoline, food, mowers, or provide printing, architectural, audit, tutoring, mechanic, HVAC, or legal services. They all have similar stories.

I am reminded of the famous “If by whiskey” speech made by Mississippi legislator Noah “Soggy” Sweat on the subject of legalizing alcohol in his state. (It’s true and worth the read if you haven’t seen it- Google it.)

“My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason… certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips… then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

So my friends, if when you talk about school district efficiency, you mean state intervention, more rules and regulations about what, when, and where boards can spend money and more infringements by the legislature on local control; if you are advocating standard schedules and calendars that have no concern for local needs or mores; if you mean regional and state purchasing that further hacks out the heart of local community businesses, that takes food from the mouths of my neighbors, then I am against it.

But if by efficiency you mean lower costs so more money can be spent on student instruction, sharing resources and collaborating with our neighbors, working together to maximize purchasing power; if you advocate better services by working together; if you create structures and systems that improve education for all children, then by all means I am in favor.

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