District needs civility to bloom

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The Courier’s opinion

An early giant in the journalism trade was fond of saying that practically every political story boils down to two issues: conflict and cash.
And while our members of Congress continue to clash over cash, the Jeffco school district is cramming our news columns with conflict, both ideological and, now, physical.
The months-long controversy over the district’s plan to test the inBloom system for storing student information boiled over last week when shoving broke out between a resident and two district staff members at a school board meeting.
Parents are concerned that inBloom’s “cloud”-based storage would leave student data vulnerable to hackers, and they have expressed frustration that the district has so far failed to release a definitive list of the student information that would be collected.
All this comes during an election year when three school board seats are open and the current board has devolved into a 2-2 stalemate that has complicated filling the vacant District 2 seat. Oh, and while the state is trying to overhaul its K-12 funding structure by seeking a $1 billion income-tax increase on that same election ballot.
One might initially conclude that some pretty polarizing ideologies are at the base of all this conflict over educating Jefferson County kids. And it’s mighty difficult to ignore that mound of cash being sought to shore up Colorado education funding, even though many of our state’s so-called leaders are doing their best to keep a safe distance.
So here we are, with an important election about to commence (mail ballots arrive next week), and the phenomenally difficult task of educating our public school students hinges on a mammoth tax increase that no one wants to talk about and on a local issue where polarized talk has given way to public pugilism.
Time is indeed short, and tempers are frayed. But it’s time for cooler heads to prevail:
• The six school board hopefuls need to put away the parade of platitudes that have so far passed for substance at candidate forums and take a clear stand on the issues — even the controversial ones.
• It’s time to stop demonizing the opposition to inBloom. Plans to test the system have been shelved in several states; parents and school board members have expressed legitimate concerns and deserve a legitimate response and a transparent approach.
• The remaining four school board members need to set an example of civility and end the back-channel sniping that both sides have engaged in.
Conflict and cash? Present and accounted for. But a couple other factors — oversized egos and petty incivility — are getting in the way of transparent and careful consideration of some issues that are very important to the future of Jeffco kids.