There is something wrong here. In early September, the Pennridge Education Association (PEA) publicly endorsed the “Pennridge United” slate of Democrat School Board candidates: King, Curran, O’Donnell, Sciarrino and Link. Then, in early October, the PEA and Pennridge United publicly celebrated their collaboration in canvassing for votes.
The Pennridge Education Association is the district’s teachers union. It is the local union for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). The PSEA represents the labor, policy, and professional interests of its members – largely public school teachers and support professionals.
A school board is an elected, unpaid body of citizens responsible for adopting courses of study and textbooks, establishing policy, approving budgets and levying taxes, and entering into professional contracts and collective bargaining agreements. Beyond policy-making and administration, school boards are also advocates for students and their parents within the education system.
So what is the problem with a teachers union endorsing school board candidates? The problem is a conflict of interest. The Pennridge School Board will soon be negotiating with the PEA concerning teacher contracts that will expire in 2023.
The union-backed candidates of Pennridge United, if elected, would be directly responsible for negotiating with the union regarding the next contract. This is not about the individual rights of teachers to endorse and/or volunteer their time, money, or in-kind services; it is about the restrictions that are placed on unions so as to not tempt impropriety, in action or appearance.
Teachers unions should not be involved in endorsing school board candidates and candidates should also know better than to accept them. We understood this and declined to interview for the PEA endorsement specifically to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
The concerns of this conflict of interest were raised by David Bedillion, a Pennridge resident, during his public comment at the Oct. 4, curriculum committee meeting. Mr. Bedillion questioned “How can taxpayers be assured that these school board candidates, if elected, would represent the educational and financial interests of the community?”
All components of a school system need to work together to provide a functional and effective educational experience for our children. The school board is an integral part of the system and is expected to maintain a positive working relationship with the administration, teachers, and the community. However, the school board ultimately represents the voice of the community and is the only direct advocate for parents within the school system.
Across our country, parents are making their voices heard about their desires for the education of their children, often being met with censorship, criticism, and administrative obstacles. Now more than ever we must have school board members who will defend the right of parents to have input on the education of their children.
We need school board members who will be transparent and objectively represent the community within the dynamics of the school system. We deserve school board members who will support our teachers, prioritize academic excellence, prevent divisive political ideologies from entering our schools, and support health choice for students and teachers.
For Pennridge, we are those school board candidates.
School Board Candidates