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Should governor appoint entire school board?

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Bill 424 would return things to the old school way of running education: the governor appointing all nine members followed by consent from the Legislature.  An elected school board just isn't making the grade, according to Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz.

"You've watched over the last 16 years the number of times we've had the elections and there weren't sufficient number of people to run for the position.  There were always vacancies that couldn't be filled because there weren't sufficient numbers of people running in the districts," he told KUAM News.

The debate involving an elected school board has been around since the 24th Guam Legislature when senators passed the education reform act of 1997. That was vetoed by then-governor Carl Gutierrez.  A revised version was introduced later in the 26th Legislature that too was passed but vetoed again by Gutierrez.  The measure in the end was overridden effectively creating what we have today - the Guam Education Policy Board.

Vice-Speaker Cruz however not only believes there hasn't been enough candidates running, but has simply been ineffective, citing recent Department of Education budget hearings as one example.  "My concern this time is that you have DOE takes up 45% of the budget and someone should be responsible for that the governor has issued his budget and said he wants to give it about $200 million.  GDOE came out with their budget of $276 million, there's an almost $80 million difference there. Someone's got to have control to say this is how much that's got to be given."

Bill 424 would mandate all nine members of the new Guam Education Board to be appointed by the governor followed by consent of the Legislature.  

Governor Felix Camacho, who's had a history of run-ins with the elected school board, is giving high marks for the legislation.  "Let's see how debate on the floor takes that and how public and of course it has to have public hearings its curious because this is something I've talked about for eight years and now as I leave with five and a half months to go they do this.  Maybe they've learned something along the way, but I've always felt it was a failed experiment.

"This elected board very inefficient very politicized and that's the whole thing they wanted to do they wanted to take politics out of it they had more of it, and as a result they drove education into the ground.  So the effectiveness of it will be with the next governor and that remains to be seen whether or not it will past muster at the Guam Legislature."

Also of note is that when Governor Camacho was a senator in the 24th and 26th legislatures, he voted in favor of both bills creating the elected school board.

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