The Indiana legislature introduces legislation to allow partisan school board elections

INDIANAPOLIS — Some Indiana lawmakers are reintroducing legislation to allow partisan school board races. This means that school board candidates could run with a political party affiliation.

As some school board meetings and elections have become heated in recent years, some argue voters should have a better idea of ​​where school board candidates stand on the issues.

“I think it’s important for parents and taxpayers to know exactly where their candidates stand,” said Rhonda Miller, president of Purple for Parents Indiana.

Miller and her organization are calling on the state to allow school board candidates to run under one political party affiliation.

“A lot of times that’s not made clear and people don’t really know what party affiliation they’re voting for,” Millers said. “For them to understand that, we need to explain it on the ballot.”

But other parents and organizations argue that party affiliation has no place in school board races.

“People who serve on a school board should be there to serve for the children and taxpayers in the community they serve,” said Rachel Burke. “They should not be beholden to anyone else or any political party.”

Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, points out that this would also prevent some potential candidates, such as government employees, from running.

“If we change that, we’re going to lose a pool of really talented, motivated Hoosiers,” Spradlin said.

State Assemblyman JD Prescott (R-Union City) said he is bringing back a bill this year that would allow school board candidates to run under political parties. His bill would also introduce a primary process for candidates who choose to declare their party, he said.

“I put school board candidates through exactly the same election process as any other officer,” Prescott said.

Meanwhile, Democrats say they hope legislation stalls again this year.

“As a high school math teacher, I’ve never had parents say we need more politics in our schools,” said State Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute). “I just don’t think it’s necessary.”

It is too early to tell how far a bill on this issue could take this session. Last year, a bill received a hearing in committee but failed to get a vote to advance to Parliament.