School board candidates would have a political party with their name if a bill under discussion in the Indiana House becomes law.
There still wouldn’t be a primary under the proposal, but Union City Republican J-D Prescott’s bill would let candidates list themselves as Republicans or Democrats. Other parties or candidates who just didn’t want to list a party would be shown as independents.
Prescott says listing a party affiliation would give voters more information about a low-profile race. He says he’s heard from several constituents who complain they don’t know who or what they’re voting for.
Witnesses who testified at a House committee hearing last week were united against the bill. Spencer-Owen County board member Derek Morgan says the fact the race is nonpartisan was part of the reason he ran. He says injecting politics would take members’ focus away from students, and interfere with their ability to represent the entire community.
Prescott says politics is already intertwined with schools. Indiana School Boards Association executive director Terry Spradlin argues the bill would change politicization from an occasional problem to the norm. He says the bill would discourage many candidates from running and disqualify others who hold federal jobs, as with employees of the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. And he warns tying school board members to political parties could turn school administrators into patronage jobs.
Three states make school boards a partisan office. Four others allow individual school districts to make that decision.
The committee has until Tuesday to vote on the bill.
A separate committee has unanimously approved an unrelated bill requiring school boards to allow public comment at meetings. Boards could still hold their meetings online, limit speakers to three minutes, or throw out speakers who become disruptive. The House will vote on the bill next week.