Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mr. Wilder, Stop Playing Politics With Our Children

An article in the January 17 Richmond Times-Dispatch says that the leaders of Mayor Wilder’s commission on education are unhappy about “feuding” between the Mayor, the school administration and the city’s elected School Board. In my opinion, however, the article seems to place most of the blame on the School Board and ignores the fact that any feud that exists originated in Mr. Wilder’s efforts to force the School Board to follow his orders.

Since he has taken office, Mr. Wilder has been acting as if his election was an anointment and his inauguration a coronation. He insists on having his way and has waged war on any person or entity that refuses to go along. Whether it is the Performing Arts Center, a new stadium for the Braves, his battle with the City Council over whether it or the mayor has the power to legislate for the City, moving bus lines so that riders do not sit on the steps of his State Library, euthanizing the Maymount bears without his permission, punishing Creigh Deeds for opposing legislation Mr. Wilder proposed as Governor, or many other issues, King Doug’s rule has been “do it my way or not at all.” He reminds me of a kid we had at the school yard when I was young. Although we had a stick, the ball was his, and if we wanted to play stickball we had to play by his rules. If we refused, he took his ball and left.

His Excellency Mr. Wilder finds it unacceptable that, despite his huge election win, Title 22.1, Chapter 5, section 22.1-28 of the Virginia Code provides that “The supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board selected as provided in this chapter” rather than in the mayor. It is unthinkable to Mr. Wilder that any entity in the City of Richmond is authorized to operate without his control. So, just as he spent much of his first year in a power struggle with City Council, Mr. Wilder is now out to force the School Board and the school Superintendent to do his bidding.

Mr. Wilder fires all the shots. First he announces that Richmond Public Schools will not receive any more City funds for its operations in this year’s budget than it received last year. Then he announces that he is eliminating new school construction from his City of the Future because the School Board is not closing schools before their replacements are built as he demanded. Finally, he reminds the School Board that he is evicting them from their offices at City Hall at the end of the current school year. Mr. Wilder even tried to purge independent thinkers from the School Board by supporting opposing candidates in last November’s election.

The one thing that His Excellency doesn’t seem to care about is that the real victims of his vendetta against the School Board are the children of Richmond. Mr. Wilder must have his way, no matter who suffers. It is time that Mr. Wilder stops playing politics with the futures of our children.

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