(KCPW News) State school board candidates could soon be running as Republicans or Democrats. Senate Bill 224, sponsored by Republican Senator Howard Stephenson, was approved by the Senate yesterday. It creates direct, partisan elections for the State Board of Education. Currently, a 12-person committee nominates three candidates for school board seats, and the governor chooses two names that go on the ballot.
“Think about that for a minute. Twelve people who aren’t even from the district that these people represent? Isn’t that amazing that we have that few people vetting these candidates?” he argued.
Stephenson says the nomination should include the more rigorous convention process, where party delegates who have been elected by people in their neighborhoods choose the candidates.
He and other supporters say a partisan election would help solve the historically dismal school board election turnout. But Senate Minority Whip Karen Morgan argued those in education shouldn’t be forced to get involved in party politics.
“Many of them haven’t declared a party but they’re very strong education advocates,” she said. “I think it’s a one-issue election and so those people should be able to run in a non-partisan way.”
The State Board of Education formally opposes the bill, but supports direct, non-partisan elections. However, a bill that would have created a non-partisan election was rejected by the House earlier in the session. Stephenson’s bill passed on a 17-to-11 vote, but has to be approved one more time before moving to the House.
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