Long ago my father asked me if I knew what earning a bachelor's degree would qualify me for. I floundered around with the typical answers: the right to get a better job, the qualifications to apply to graduate school...
No, he said. It earns you "the right to ask a question." Apparently that is the case, if you go back to much older educational traditions. I did some cursory digging around for this blog post and I can't find anything, but my dad was pretty convincing. It has stuck with me all these years.
I raise this concept today because what is going on right now at the Board of Education is just that: will Board member Cindy Vaillancourt be permitted to retain the right to ask a question? It is pretty clear that the Board is attempting, through a pattern of behavior, to discredit her in an effort to prevent her re-election.
So, let's look at the kind of questions Mrs. Vaillancourt has asked while on the Board:
- Why, after firing in-house attorneys, did the school system hire the same attorney who had been fired by Prince George's County Public Schools as a result of an improper payment made--an ethics violation?
- Why was the board going to have a vote on elementary school redistricting without addressing the overcrowding at Laurel Woods?
- Where did the money come from for the China trip, and why did some board members know nothing about it while others were already signed up to go along?
- How could the school system make such substantial changes in curriculum in the Model Schools Initiative without allowing the Board to have open hearings and vote on it?
- When will the board be permitted to review the legal fees report to see whether getting rid of in-house counsel has resulted in cost savings?
- Are we fulfilling the promise of the new wellness policy if we are serving sweetened cereals in our breakfast program?
- Why was the Board suspending the Operational Budget Review Board, and weren't they required to have a vote to do that?
The right to ask a question. It is a right we should all have a stake in defending.