Tuesday, February 3

DPI Elections: A Bully Pulpit for WEAC or Taxpayers

Five candidates are vying to replace Liz Burmaseter at the DPI. There will be a primary on February 17th to narrow the field down to two followed by a general election on April 7th.

The candidates can be roughly divided into three camps: 1. Liberals spending and pushing for more government encroachment of education. 2. Fiscal hawk that saves the structural status quo (Van Mobley). 3. Red meat conservative (Rose Fernandez).

It is about as hard to find out about this election and the candidates as it is to determine anything of significance that the DPI does. From their sites you can gather something. Most of those I have cataloged as being liberal WEAC mouth pieces say little more than "I'm a good man with respect for all the great things our teachers do." A great recipe to sit back and watch someone else lead I would say.

I had a chance to interview Van Mobley today. An economics professor at Concordia College he would love to get his hands as much as possible on some part of the economic mess coming down the tubes. His first place to start would be the Board of Regents where he would get a seat and have a little say in the golden packages administrators are getting there. He has been frustrated by the lack of response from the educational community in this fiscal crisis. With up to two-thirds of our failed state budget dedicated to education the point is well taken. Indeed, when it comes to economic issues Van Mobley is quick to move the conversation right past simply educational ideas and talks readily about many different economic concerns facing the state almost as if he is running for a legislative position instead of DPI.

On his website the various options to public education are hardly mentioned, and even in direct conversation options to public education play little role in any change Van Mobley would like to see. "I would vigorously defend the charter schools and voucher system in Milwaukee," Van Mobley said. At the same time Mobley saw little reason to see any change in the system. No reason to push for any addition to the vouchers, charter schools or virtual schools. That applies to other options such as homeschooling as well. "There is an old saying about letting sleeping dogs lie," Mobley said when talking about homeschoolers. The system is working and homeschoolers like the way that the state does almost nothing with them and he sees no reason to change that.

It is not as if Van Mobley does not have ideas. On his webpage he writes extensively about his favorite authors and includes a reading list betraying his professor's heart that continues even into his campaign. On the top of his list of books to read is the Bible which he calls the foundation for learning. Yet, this does not put him on the same wavelength as most parents who would like to see their children taught at least the controversy between evolution and creation. Mobley not only believes in punctuated equilibrium in which intelligent design could have played a part but would encourage those under him to espouse a similar view. Interesting but we would be unlikely to see new open thought to ideas that challenge evolution.

I liked Van Mobley on first take. His reading list was great, and his fiscal conservatism right on. I am disappointed however that he see little expansion for other school options and for his muddled view of the origins debate. He is better than the other quack three but it made me want to learn more about Rose before I endorsed Van Mobley. With a little help from a friend that I know, Rose Fernandez has been fixing up her site and has a better tone for other educational options. A bit to rash on first take she might in the end be the better option.

In the end, I'm undecided but leaning toward Rose. Stay tuned for an interview.