Local School Boards Should Not Be Partisan

Yes, public education is political. But it does not have to be partisan.

Yet, in the last few years, more and more local school board elections are becoming partisan races steering school systems by a GPS system based on political dogma and controlled in Raleigh rather than what is best for the local school system.

My own school system, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools is a partisan board and many, including myself, see that as an obstacle in fully helping our schools.

Below is from an article in Education Week dated in December of 2017.

The volatile mix of partisan politics and school board elections is on full display in North Carolina.

The Republican-controlled legislature in the last five years has systematically flipped the election process for more than a quarter of the state’s 116 local school boards from nonpartisan races to ones in which candidates are identified by party affiliation.

Depending on whom you talk to in this politically purple state, it’s a historic shift that could lead to much-needed transparency, upend board-member relations, or shrink black and Latino political representation in a racially and ethnically diverse state.

The push toward partisan school board elections in North Carolina has gained momentum since 2013, shortly after the federal government loosened the reins on Voting Rights Act restrictions under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder decision, and after Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature. The state now has 35 school boards that will be elected on a partisan basis—at least 10 of them added to that pool by lawmakers this year alone. 

At one time on the WSFCS school board were two people who never were elected to such a position. One of them actually became the Vice-Chair before he was defeated in the primary when he actually did run for that office.

What had happened was that two people had resigned / left and because it was a partisan school board, the party affiliation of the member leaving got to dictate who came on board as a school board representative.

Currently, about a third of the LEA’s in NC are partisan. EdNC.org just put out a map showing those districts in the spring of 2021.

That EdNC.org aricle also has a list of those that are partisan and the election term dates in a link..

Later in that aformentioned EdWeek article it states,

The state’s Republicans say having local school board candidates identify by party affiliation on primary and general election ballots is simply an effort to make sure voters know candidates’ stances on polarizing issues such as school integration, vouchers, and which restroom transgender students should use.

But North Carolina Democrats counter that party politics will only bring to local school board meetings the sort of partisan rancor that’s dominated federal and state politics in recent years.

“I believe people should look at the qualities of the individual and determine if they have a heart for education,” said Bea Basnight, a Democrat and the chair of Dare County’s board of education, which will hold partisan elections for the first time next year. “We put our party affiliations aside when we walk through the door because it’s about the children.”

I agree with that statement by Basnight.

The only affiliation that a school board member should have next to his or her name is that he or she is pro-public education.