Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Senator Bert Marley: Candidate for Idaho's State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Several weeks ago I announced that I would be starting a feature, Candidate of the Week. For academic reasons I have not had the time to do this prior to next week's primary election, but I wanted to take a moment now to highlight the one and only candidate I can truly say I whole-heartedly support, Bert Marley.

When Senator Bert Marley announced on the lawn of the state capitol building last November that he would be seeking the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, he stated that when he began teaching "he went from working everyday for [his] own success to working everyday to ensure the success of [his] students." I want to attest to the honesty in that statement. As a former student of Senator Marley, I can say without hesitation that I would not be where I am today, a junior at Idaho State University with further academic aspirations, if it were not for the influence of Bert Marley.

As I stood on the lawn of the capitol last fall listening to Marley's announcement speech, with the deepest respect and admiration for Bert, I had never been more honored to be the former student of anyone. In February, I again visited the capitol and was introduced from the gallery by Senator Marley, something I will never forget.

Today as we approach the primary election and have the opportunity to vote for the candidate of our choice, I would like to tell you why I will be voting for Senator Bert Marley.

There is an enormous gap between the State Board of Education and the State Legislature. This has become more and more apparent to me as I have become involved with student government at ISU. The appointed members of the State Board have trampled the interests of students everywhere with complete disregard to our elected voice, the Superintendent of Public Instruction. As students we proposed a bill to place a student ex-officio member on the State Board this past session. Our bill did not even get out of committee, but in the disappointing days that followed, I realized that we were not trying to place a student on the State Board because we had no voice, we were trying to place a student on the Board because our voice was not being heard. Marilyn Howard was never a trained politico, nor was she a trained bureaucrat. We need a State Superintendent with both the ambition to advocate strong schools and proper funding as well as a State Superintendent who knows the operation of the legislature.

More frustrating to me than the gap between the Board and the Legislature is the gap between the State and the classroom. Bert Marley has the experience and has been on the front lines. He knows how unfunded mandates have hurt our local schools. Senator Marley is a social sciences teacher, he taught me German, World History, and Mythology, none of which are programs that are supported by the new design with emphasis on Math and Science. And yet, his advocacy for public education remains and his personal belief that he holds a responsibility to education has not been defeated.

With all the debate over the issues, the goals the candidates have for the office itself, and the reforms they hope to implement, we seem to overlook the little things that are so important to voters, not just on a political level, but on a human level. The influence Bert Marley as an educator has had in my life is immeasurable. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have no doubt that Bert Marley's positive influence on students statewide would be just as paramount.

Twenty-three years ago, Bert Marley made a choice to teach that he claims changed his life forever. Twenty-three years ago, Bert Marley made a choice that changed my own life forever.


Jessica said...

I think everyone has a different definition of what a bureaucrat is. Mine closely resembles Max Weber's and if we go by his definition, elected officials aren't bureaucrats. Or if they are, the very nature of an elected official would negate two important aspects of Weber's definition.

Weber's definition would also agree with the notion that Marilyn Howard did have bureaucratic experience before she became Superintendent.

I keep hearing complaints from Bert Marley supporters that Marilyn hasn't properly advocated for schools and has maintained the status quo. Why does she then enjoy a 97% approval rating? Seriously, I am totally bewildered. Is she just fooling 97% of Idahoans, who, for the most part, vote for the other team?

As long as the legislature is controlled by Republicans, can we really expect any Superintendent to go in there and get whatever they ask for?

Isn't it possible to be a strong advocate for schools but unable to get every penny, nickel, and dime you ask for when the controlling body is comprised of people who are, generally speaking, ideologically opposed to fully funding schools?

Julie in Boise said...

It's Thursday before the election and I can honestly say I'm not yet sure who I'll be voting for in this race on Tuesday.

Honestly, I'd be happy with either Marley or Jones. Tara, I respect the fact you personally know Marley and feel he's a great candidate. I also appreciate the fact Jessica has brought up - and answered - the biggest argument against Jones: that she's Howard's deputy, and Howard hasn't been able to improve the legislature's attitude toward schools.

There's the electability card: that Marley has won office many times, and so he'd be better able to take on the GOP nominee. Because he's been in the legislature, he'd probably have an edge working with his former collegaues.

That said, I've been more impressed with the breadth of Jones' vision for what she'd do in the job - and there's something to be said for having at least a few women at the top of state government, too. (I believe we will elect Jackie Groves Twilegar as controller this fall, but she shouldn't be the only woman in a constitutional office.)

In truth, I believe neither Marley nor Jones will be able to make much more ground than Dr. Howard has until and unless we elect more Dems to the legislature. That's the bottom line.

Jessica said...

And both are electable for different reasons.

And you are right Julie. Until the makeup of the legislature is changed, it won't matter if we elect Bert Marley or Jesus Christ.

Nick Speth said...

lol "Yeah yeah, Mr. Commisioner, we're all impressed and grateful for the whole water into wine trick, but we just don't have the money in the budget for education." -Idaho Legislature.