Monday, October 24, 2005

Heineman Plays Politics with Education

by Kyle Michaelis
By his handling of the near-simulatenous, controversial decisions to dissolve "elementary-only" school districts in rural Nebraska and to merge various metro-area school districts into Omaha Public Schools, Governor Dave Heineman has proven himself completely undeserving of the office that he holds.

At every turn, Heineman has used people's fear and passion to boost his meager chances at election in 2006 rather than leading this state into the 21st Century. He has chosen to play regional and economic divides to his favor rather than healing these still-developing rifts. His actions have been shameful, his positioning irresponsible, and his leadership non-existent.

How sad that a man who seems to have dedicated so much of his life to public service should forsake his integrity at the first taste of power. Even more than Mike Johanns' incompetence and our Congressmen's blind partisanship, Heineman's ambitious manipulation may well be the ultimate example of the Nebraska Republican Party's failure to protect this state's future.

In his Sunday column, the Omaha World-Herald's Harold W. Andersen wrote:
Continuing the sequence of unusual aspects of the Heineman candidacy was his injecting the Governor's Office into a local controversy, i.e., the Omaha school district's "one city, one school district" proposal. The OPS plan has engendered fierce opposition among residents of suburban school districts - districts with heavily Republican voter majorities among whom Heineman is now something of a political hero, an image enhanced by his appearances at anti-Omaha school district rallies.

One aspect of Heineman's involvement in the school redistricting controversy would be almost laughable if the subject matter were not so serious. I refer to the fact that after indicating very clearly that he is taking the side of the suburban districts, he offered himself in the role of peacemaker, asking both sides to come together for negotiations under his sponsorship.

It seems to me that it's rather hard to offer yourself in the role of an honest broker when you already have announced that you favor one side over the other in the negotiations that you say you would like to sponsor.

Meanwhile, an article in Monday's World-Herald included:
Voters will get a chance next year to decide whether to repeal a law forcing elementary-only schools to merge into larger

But the vote outcome may not matter unless a judge first decides to suspend the law. That's because the mergers will take effect five months before the vote will take place....

Gov. Dave Heineman, who vetoed the bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year and signed the petition, supports suspending the law until the vote.

"That would be applying a little Nebraska common sense," he said during a news conference call in which he was asked about the issue....

The law angered small-school advocates, who said it was unnecessary because many elementary-only, or Class I schools, are closing on their own, primarily because of a lack of students. But backers of the law said it was needed primarily to ensure equity in education and financial resources in districts across the state.

I feel for the parents and communities that are trying to keep their schools open and/or independent. But, Heineman's pandering for votes in one instance to let small schools die a slow death (at great student/tax-payer expense) and in the other to protect a privileged class violating every principle on which public education is founded is outrageous and despicable.

Heineman, for all his bluster, is flat-out wrong on both these issues. There is nothing populist or principled in protecting waste and privilege. Where compromise may have been possible, Heineman's fool-hardy, line-in-the-sand approach has emboldened short-sighted idiocy in public policy. In so doing, he has actually hurt those with whom he so cynically stands, whose well-meaning causes must now be defeated entirely if we are to maintain any degree of responsible governance.

Heineman deserves a similar fate for the very same reason.


Post a Comment

<< Home