Republican lawmakers in several states are eyeing a change to school board election procedures to help voters distinguish between candidates in the traditionally nonpartisan elections.
School board elections are considered nonpartisan races throughout most of the country, and candidates generally eschew party labels. But as parental rights activists have pushed back against liberal school board policies nationwide, Republicans in several states are viewing party labels as a way for voters to better distinguish candidates.
WORRIED PARENTS TAKE OVER SCHOOL BOARD SEATS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Tennessee reportedly passed legislation in October that allowed school board candidates in the state to list their party affiliation, while Florida, Missouri, and Arizona all have similar proposals in various stages of the legislative process.
The American Enterprise Institute’s Max Eden published an October paper calling for states to allow partisan labels and to move school board elections to “on cycle” years as off-cycle elections “deeply depress turnout and minimize genuine ‘local control’ in public education.”
“To boost the signal as to what candidates stand for, school board ballots should allow partisan affiliation to appear next to candidates names,” Eden wrote.
Without partisan labels, school board elections have often resulted in highly Republican and conservative areas electing school board officials with more liberal politics than the area’s general tilt.
In 2021, a movement to elect more conservative candidates saw immense success in school board races all over the country, as liberal incumbents were ousted by conservative candidates who ran on platforms vowing to ban critical race theory and school mask mandates.
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The push is not without its critics, Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told Politico that while partisan board races “would produce more informed voters,” he added that “it would likely accelerate [the] emerging trend of nationalization of local education politics.”