INDIANAPOLIS – Some Indiana lawmakers are reintroducing legislation to allow partisan school board races. That means school board candidates would be able to run with a political party affiliation.
As some school board meetings and elections have grown more heated in recent years, some argue voters should have a better idea of where school board candidates stand on the issues.
“I think it’s important for parents and taxpaying citizens to know where exactly their candidates align,” said Rhonda Miller, president of Purple for Parents Indiana.
Miller and her organization are calling for the state to allow school board candidates to run under a political party affiliation.
“A lot of times, that’s not made clear and people don’t really know which party affiliation they’re voting for,” Millers said. “So in order for them to understand that, we need it to be declared on the ballot.”
But other parents and organizations argue party affiliation doesn’t belong in school board races.
“People who are serving on a school board should serve there for the children and the taxpayers in the community that they serve,” said Rachel Burke. “They shouldn’t be beholden to someone else or a political party.”
Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, points out it would also prevent some potential candidates, such as government employees, from running.
“If we change that, then we lose a pool of really talented, motivated Hoosiers,” Spradlin said.
State Rep. J.D. Prescott (R-Union City) said he is bringing back a bill this year to allow school board candidates to run under political parties. His bill would also set up a primary process for candidates who choose to declare their party, he said.
“I’m putting school board candidates in the exact same elections process as every other officeholder,” Prescott said.
Meanwhile, Democrats say they hope to see the legislation stall again this year.
“As a high school math teacher, I’ve never had any parent come up and say we need more politics in our schools,” said State Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute). “I just don’t think it’s necessary.”
It’s too early to tell how far any bill on this topic could advance this session. Last year, a bill received a committee hearing but didn’t get a vote to advance to the House floor.