New bill seeks to have partisan school board positions

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:19 PM EST
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WPTA) - A proposed bill at the statehouse is causing a heated debate among educators and elected officials.

“I think that anybody that supports making schools elections bipartisan doesn’t really have the best interest for public school or school boards at heart,” Fort Wayne Educators Association President Sandra Vohs says.

“I really don’t think this will be harmful to the process,” Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine says. “It will be beneficial. There will be more transparency.”

The School Board Elections Bill, as it’s called, would require school board candidates to claim an affiliation with a political party.

Those in support of the bill, like Shine, believe declaring parties will bring transparency to the process.

“Really, by including a label on the person who is running for a school board office as a Republican or a Democrat, is more of full disclosure,” Shine says. “If you will, it allows the people to realize where that candidate’s political philosophy is based.”

Those against the bill, like Fort Wayne Educators Association President Sandra Vohs, say the bill would bring politics into schools where she believes it does not belong.

“If we really care about schools and we want to make sure that the business of running our schools is in the best interest of our kids, we should not try to stick ‘McLabels’ on everything and say that you’re either this or that, but actually talk about the issues, debate the actual problem, and figure out what it is you want to get done,” Vohs says.

The Allen County Democratic Party agrees.

“HB1074 is a solution in search of a problem,” the party says. “Indiana public schools are in desperate need of increased funding, higher teacher salaries, and more resources for students, but for some reason Indiana Republicans are choosing to prioritize requiring school board candidates to identify with a political party, instead of dealing with actual issues facing our schools. Hoosier students deserve a state legislature that focuses on addressing the achievement gap and preparing them for higher education and future careers. We are hopeful that this bill does not pass, so the legislature can get back to solving real issues holding our state back.”

Currently, Indiana is among 41 states where school board elections are held without any party identification on the ballot.

Under the proposed legislation, school board candidates claiming affiliation with a political party must vote in that party’s two most recent primary elections.

A candidate could identify as independent if they aren’t a member of a political party.

The House Bill 1074 is currently in the committee on elections.

Republicans are proposing similar legislation in the State Senate.

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