Should school board candidates accept campaign contributions from unions?
Every local school board candidate asked that question at recent candidate forums has emphatically announced that they will not accept donations of any kind from a union.
It is one subject – whether running for Community Consolidated School District 15 or Township High School District 211 – in which they all agree.
In fact at last week’s Palatine Township GOP/TOPPER sponsored candidate forum, incumbent District 15 board president Gerald Chapman went further to address the issue. He explained that he told the district’s unions two years ago - when he was not running for re-election - that it wasn’t their responsibility to get involved in supporting candidates.
However, that wasn’t the case in 2007 when he ran on the “Three for District 15” slate with fellow incumbent James Ekeberg and current District 15 school board member Richard Bokor.
As documented on the Illinois State Board of Elections Web site, all three District 15 unions contributed a total of $9,500 to the slate – most of which was not recorded until a few days before the election. In addition, the Classroom Teachers Council (teacher union) paid for a professional public relations firm to help secure the three a seat on the school board.
Of course school employees – as individuals and as a union – can legally support financially or otherwise the candidates of their choice. School board members vote on employee pay, health insurance benefits and working conditions. It is only natural to have a vested interest in who is elected to make those decisions.
How do you know where a candidate's support is coming from?
Transparency is the key. If there is full disclosure, well in advance of the election, then voters can make an informed choice. If that disclosure isn’t made until after an election – then that is dishonest to the voters and shows a lack of transparency.
If four years later an incumbent attempts to minimize that support which enabled him to win the election – by recalling at a forum that it was only “a mailer” in support of their candidacy – what can you do?
Hold them accountable. Attend a forum, ask a question and listen for the answer.
And don’t forget to vote Tuesday, April 5.