Should school board candidates in Indiana run under a political party?

Under Indiana law, school board candidates are listed as non-partisan
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 5:19 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - When you voted in the Indiana primary, you likely voted for someone who designated their party. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, but for school board races in Indiana, they’re all listed as non-partisan.

Some Indiana lawmakers, including state representative Bob Morris, R - District 84, say because people who serve on school boards vote in elections themselves, they think their seats should be tied to a political party.

“They can pull a republican ballot this primary, next primary they can pull a democrat. They can go back and forth, but what are we trying to hide on these school boards as far as saying they’re non-partisan.”

Kristi Schlatter is up for re-election for the Northwest Allen County Schools board. She’s served six years and says school board members should be non-partisan.

“I think the motivation for being a non-partisan school board member is so that I can do my best to meet the needs of all of our children,” Schlatter said. “It’s not about hiding, but it’s about providing the best opportunities we can, regardless of the child or family’s background, political affiliation. “

In the other NACS district race, Darren Vogt ran on a conservative platform, something he did as an Allen County council member for 12 years.

Vogt says he doesn’t have a problem with designating a party, explaining “I don’t necessarily think it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just important for some people to understand where you think, philosophy-wise. So, if you’re not willing to say that, then that could be a problem to not understand your points of view when it comes to making decisions.”

With topics like mask mandates recently being a controversial issue within the district, Vogt says he thinks a school board member can work for the best interest of all students and listen to everyone while still standing up for your personal beliefs.

“You shouldn’t hide what you think, but what you should be able to do is back up your though processes with ideas and thoughts, and the “R” or “D” doesn’t really matter if you can back up your argument,” Vogt says.

Schlatter says she stands behind the principal of “No politics” listed in the Indiana school boards association code of ethics. She says she doesn’t see how partisanship will help the district in the future, saying “I think that we’re in a time where unity is so important and so needed, and I don’t see partisanship lending itself that towards our students in our community. “

Morris says that one the legislative session begins in January, he plans to re-file legislation that would require school board candidates to designate a part.