The State Board of Education today (Wednesday) tabled a proposed rule that would seek to limit what board members could say publicly after a vote on issues. The change would put into place a board guideline that says “Once formal board action is taken all members shall be publicly supportive of the same.”
The proposed change came after months of discussions over changing the academic eligibility requirements for athletes that resulted in one board member calling for the president of the board to resign. There’s still disagreement on the board still as to whether the change will come back in its same form.
Board president Gene Vincent of Carroll says the vote was tabled because not all board members could be present for the discussion. Vincent says it’s vitally important for all new board members to be present to discuss the issue. Vincent says they need an “open frank discussion” as he says it’s “the board’s guidelines, not the departments guidelines.” Discussion to table the guidelines indicated a committee will review the guidelines and bring them back with changes.
Vincent says he doesn’t know if the controversial portion of the guidelines will be taken out. Vincent says he doesn’t know that and says all things will be discussed as they’re printed now and changes will have to be discussed in the open meeting. Vincent says the decision will be left up to the vote of the entire board, as he says “It’s their board, not my board.”
Board member Charles Edwards of Des Moines will lead the subcommittee that will review the guidelines and bring them back to the board for discussion. Edwards, the dean of Drake University’s school of journalism and former publisher of The Des Moines Register, says there will be changes.
Edwards says, “The issue I that..I object to most strenuously is the fact that board is encourage or told not to talk to the press after a majority opinion. And I don’t believe that, I think that is suppression of the First Amendment and our reasonability as public servants. And, and we’re supposed to be independent, this is a public board.”
Edwards says he doesn’t think the original intent of the guidelines was to deny board members of their right to speak publicly. But Edwards says that denying of the right to speak would be the result of the guidelines and, “That’s what I objected to, that’s got to be out of there. Because I think it violates the law, and I think it violates the spirit of what independent board members, uh, public board members are supposed to be doing. And so I very much object to that.”
Edwards says there may be some other changes too. Edwards says he also has some concerns about how items are brought to the board and “whether the majority in fact rules.” Edwards says the minority should be encouraged to bring things to the board for its consideration. Edwards says he questioned the need to even bring the issue to the board.
Edwards says the board functions very well and people are civil to each other, so he questions why the guidelines were brought up. He says some of the issue “Should never have come up and should never have been recommended.” The guidelines could come back for a vote at the meeting in January.