The Nov. 8 general election in Park County School District 1 had intense back and forth in the local races for school district trustee positions that often appeared to represent followings with rival …
The Nov. 8 general election in Park County School District 1 had intense back and forth in the local races for school district trustee positions that often appeared to represent followings with rival beliefs. Importantly, those differences amounted to varying ideas of how best to execute to achieve highest quality education for students in the local schools. That’s healthy.
Winning candidates this year bring a mix of veteran experience and understanding, along with newcomer parental insights and ideas, and all come together with the goal of seeking the best outcomes for students, teachers and community.
It was not a showing of political party stripe. State law in Wyoming doesn’t allow political party affiliation attached to school board candidates’ names on the ballot.
Wyoming, it turns out, has a lot of company in the election of school board members on a nonpartisan ballot. Only four states in the country require partisan labels for school district elections, making it far from the norm.
Laws in Alabama, Louisiana, Connecticut and Pennsylvania automatically allow partisan school board elections.
Another five states, Georgia, Rhode Island, Tennessee and North and South Carolina, have laws effectively allowing — but not requiring — political party identification of candidates.
Wyoming fits in with 41 states and the District of Columbia, where state law requires nonpartisan school board elections. That’s estimated to provide for election of 90% of school trustees in the U.S. without political party affiliation.
Ballotpedia presents arguments put forth by both sides of the issue.
The case for partisan school board elections by proponent Aaron Churchill of the Thomas Fordham Institute: “School board elections are an important form of local accountability and oversight. When citizens are unhappy with the district, they can always voice their dissatisfaction at the ballot box. Yet nonpartisan elections likely weaken accountability because voters don’t know which party is in power and who deserves the boot for acting contrary to their interests. It’s hard to shake up the status quo when you can’t figure out who’s part of it.”
The case for nonpartisan school board elections by proponent Michael Ford of Governing: “The goal of having nonpartisan elections is not to remove all politics from governing, but rather to remove a conflict point that keeps the school board from doing its job. Explicitly partisan elections invite state and federal battles into a local governing context at the expense of truly local issues.”
By my reading, it comes down to how much feverish partisanship you want hanging over school board elections. It’s my belief the system has worked pretty well for Wyoming school board elections where candidates make their own case without the R, D and I.