Sunday, November 29, 2009

Elimination Challenge

COLUMN NOTES: For some background, the Greater Clark School Corporation in Clark County, Indiana, hired a new superintendent, Dr. Steve Daeschner, for an amount over what they budgeted for the position.

A local group, led by an ex-Jeffersonville Indiana mayor, Dale Orem, started a fund to collect donations to pay the excess amount. Orem and his crew set up a fund through the local Community Foundation, and now it has been ruled that donations made to that fund can remain private an anonymous, despite the fact that these funds go directly to paying the superintendent's salary.

The site did start a thread on this topic and if you want to see it, click here.

HARBESON: Columnist issues elimination challenge

Last May, in a column about Greater Clark County Schools’ hiring of Dr. Stephen Daeschner, I wondered who might actually donate to pay the portion of his salary in excess of the budgeted amount and whether we would eventually be told that the people donating need to be kept private.

It looks like I don’t have to wonder anymore. The people involved in raising the money seem to have successfully set up a fund in a way that will hide the identity of individual donors. Of course, this would make no difference if the people who donated stood up to be counted.

But they’re not exactly tripping over each other to do so.

I wonder why. It seems to me they would be out front and center loudly proclaiming, “Yes I support this man and you should too.”

But for some reason it’s all being done behind closed doors.

It’s fascinating, because many organizations accept donations for their causes, and I’ve noticed that these groups often proudly point to the individuals who make voluntary contributions.

They print up colorful, shiny programs and brochures which specifically list donors, sometimes even grouping them into categories of amounts given. They naturally want to publicly thank the donors, as well as show people that their neighbors think enough of their organization to contribute money.

Of course, these same organizations also respect those who would like to donate anonymously. The community at large seems to respect this privacy, because I’ve never heard of it ever being controversial.

I’ve also never heard of newspapers filing lawsuits to see who the anonymous donors may be to these organizations. So what’s the difference in this instance?

The difference is that these organizations are based on freedom of association, and government schools are not. The people who are donating to help pay Daeschner’s salary are supporting a person who is in charge of an institution whose very foundation is based upon compulsion and coercion.

So naturally, those who are forced to be involved want to know everything they can about the source of any money that flows into such an organization, especially when the money goes directly to the person who has the most power.

It’s similar to campaign contributions. Campaign donations are totally voluntary, too, but since the donations end up affecting how government force is used, some folks have worked hard to make campaign finance contributions more transparent.

It’s not difficult to understand why.

So if you want more transparency on who is paying Daeschner, there’s no need to be disheartened by recent events. There might be a way to get inside the box they’ve built around themselves by using a powerful problem-solving tool we should have all learned in school: The process of elimination.

All that needs to be done is to start an initiative to have everyone who is NOT donating to publicly stand up and be counted. As more and more people publicly out themselves as nondonors, the pool of possible donors will get smaller and smaller and it will become easier to figure out who donated money, even if they haven’t acknowledged it.

Where to compile this information? It would be very easy to set up a Web site for this, or maybe someone could just start a thread on, the site residents created to bring people together on issues of local interest.

No matter how it’s done, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility to end up with a very good idea of who is involved. And it could be more fun than discovering it was Col. Mustard who did it in the parlor using a candlestick.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson finds the process of elimination very helpful after ingesting too many martinis with Professor Plum in the billiard room.

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