Keep politics out of school board races
One of the bills sponsored by Delegate Larry Kump this session may seem like a good idea on the surface, but raises questions if you look into it more deeply.
Kump, who represents Morgan and Berkeley counties, would change the date of county school board elections from the Primary Election in May to the General Election in November. The idea is that since school boards are nonpartisan positions, they shouldn’t be elected on the same day as party primaries but during the November election, which usually draws a bigger crowd.
We fear, however, that the election of two or three school board members every other year would just get lost in the political shuffle of the General Election. Few people would pay attention to school board candidates when rough and tumble campaigns are under way for county, state and national offices. Most referendums and constitutional amendments are on the November ballot rather than the May ballot, as well.
Take last year. Aside from the Republican sheriff’s nomination, the school board candidates had the Primary Election season pretty much to themselves. But if they’d had to run in November, they’d have been dropped into highly partisan races for county commission, sheriff, assessor, Congress, governor, state offices and president. Who would have paid much mind to the ins and outs of school policy? There was no air left in the room.
Some might argue that the “independent” voter is better served by a November date, but independents can already vote in Republican and Democrat primaries, so the school board election just gives them another reason to turn out in May. If they don’t vote, it’s their loss.
By electing the board in May, members can take office at the start of the fiscal year on July 1 and be in place for the new school year in August, rather than playing musical chairs at mid-term.
We suspect there will be a lot of bills promoting changes to election procedures and to school policy this year. Both subjects seem to be hot ticket items. We hope legislators — and the public that elects them — will pick and choose carefully so that the changes are truly meaningful and not just a rearrangement of the shelves.