Our View: Wade bill ‘tweaking’ falls short

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 01:27 AM

A bill introduced by state Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, to radically change Guilford County Board of Education elections has been tweaked by a committee in the N.C. House of Representatives, but no one has of yet made the case for why this measure is taking up time in the Legislature.
And still, no one has convinced any of the 11 members of the Guilford school board why Wade’s proposed changes should be made. Last week, school board members voted unanimously to oppose the revised Wade bill under consideration in the House.
“I appreciate the House trying to work with the bill, but it shouldn’t have been introduced in the first place. I’m opposed to any version of this bill so far,” said board member Darlene Garrett. She represents District 3 in the northern and northwest parts of the county and is regarded as one of the more conservative members of the nonpartisan school board.
Wade originally proposed redistricting the board seats to adopt districts that she said more closely resemble those county commissioners began using in 2012. In the new House version, one at-large seat and one district are eliminated and district lines of a new nine-member board (eight districts, one at-large) align with county commissioners districts put into use in 2012 elections. Those commissioners districts resulted in commissioners having a Republican majority board.
The House version keeps terms at four years, while Wade had proposed reducing them to two years. The House version would have all candidates running for two-year terms in 2014, with staggering of the four-year terms beginning after that. Additionally, the House version would set up a voter referendum in 2014 to determine whether school board elections should become partisan contests in which candidates file and run according to political party affiliation. Wade’s bill had included that change without a vote of the people.
In April, we questioned the need of Wade’s proposed changes when there had been no public outcry for them and no support from the county school board for initiating the changes. Wade’s bill is a “local bill” that deals with matters of local government, not statewide issues. Generally, requests for such legislation come from a local governing body that is to be impacted by it. That’s one of the more curious aspects of Wade’s bill.
As for switching to partisan political races for board of education posts, that would make school board races and issues more politically divisive. It would have a negative impact on decision-making. The interests of party would become the priority in decisions, not what’s best for school students overall. But at least, this House version of the bill allows a vote of the people of Guilford County before such a change would be made.
However, Wade’s bill, despite the House tweaking, still should have the legislative support the nonpartisan school board has given it — none.