Bill could revamp school board elections

Mar. 19, 2013 @ 05:21 PM

State Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, has introduced a bill that would change school board elections for Guilford County.
The bill, S.B. 317, would redistrict the county’s school board members' districts, make Guilford County school board elections partisan, and make the terms of each member a two-year term.
Wade said she proposed this bill to better align the districts with the county commissioner districts introduced last year and give residents the chance to have more input and choices.
“It will align the school board districts more in line with the county commissioner districts, and they can work more closely together and in the best interest of the community they represent,” she said.
Wade said informing Guilford County residents and getting their input is the driver behind the other two aspects of the bill.
“Participation in nonpartisan elections is lower than in partisan elections,” she said. “This will allow citizens to know more about a candidate by knowing what party they are and aren’t affiliated with.
“Throughout the state there are an array of partisan and nonpartisan elections, but even though you call it nonpartisan, it ends up going down party lines. (Making elections partisan) will encourage more participation and more competition in district elections. Last year, there wasn’t any competition. No one filed against the incumbents.”
Wade said two-year terms aren’t uncommon, citing city councils and congressional seats, which both have elections every two years.
“It certainly gives citizens the chance to evaluate board members,” she said. “(This bill) would ensure that citizens have more input and more competition, and there would be more diverse views on the Board of education.”

What does this mean for High Point?

The way the proposed school board districts are divided, High Point will divided into three Districts (1, 2 and 5). Currently, High Point is a part of districts 1 and 2. If approved, the districts will take effect in 2016.

“It’s not good for High Point, dividing it into three school districts,” said District 2 school board member Ed Price. “It dilutes the number of High Pointers that can get elected.”
S.B. 317 would make school board elections partisan starting in 2014 and biannually thereafter.
“I think the current school board is listening to High Point’s needs, which the prior school board didn’t do. It’s not perfect, but I’m pleased, and I don’t see any use in changing it,” Price said.
The bill also would change the terms of school board members from four years to two years. School board districts were the same as Guilford County Board of Commissioners districts until last year. Following a redistricting imposed by a Republican-dominated legislature, the Board of Commissioners was reduced to nine members from 11. There are eight districts with one at-large member.
“I don’t know why they’d make the school board two years and leave the county commissioners at four. I’m just finishing my second year, and it takes about that long to get oriented,” Price said.
Price adds that he would be fine with the changes “if they let the voters decide it.”
“People that live in Charlotte or Raleigh or Wilmington shouldn’t be making decisions about how we’re going to run in Guilford County,” he said. “If voters want it, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be done by legislators.”
Staff Writer David Nivens contributed to this article.
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