Another View: School board elections shouldn’t be moved to November

Mike Tsichlis
Lindbergh School Board

For the second year in a row, a bill called HCB 6 has been aggressively pushed in the Missouri Legislature.

It includes a provision to move the date of school board elections across the state from annually in April to biannually in the November general election occurring in even-numbered years — the same date state and federal elections are held. It would further expand school board member service terms from what is currently three years to four.

Well, what’s so terrible about any of this? Plenty.

First, by their nature and legislative intention, school board elections are nonpartisan. This keeps campaign issues focused on public education policy affecting children – class size, instructional needs, school safety, school performance, et cetera, without being tagged to party interests. It also helps keep matters such as school district financial issues and accountability to taxpayers from falling into conventional political party jargon.

Second, and just as important, April elections enable voters to focus exclusively on local candidates and ballot initiatives. Inquiring and well-informed voters are crucial to our elections having meaning. That’s more reason why separating local elections from state and national politics has advantages.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed, confused and just plain repulsed by the big money blitz of political ads on TV, radio, in the mail, or via robocalls and text messaging that voters have now come to expect every even-numbered year in the fall. How would as many as five or more school board candidates whose campaign budgets barely afford yard signs and push cards compete for a voice amidst all the campaign buzz? Would there be an enticement for board candidates to hitch to the campaigns of party candidates for greater support? Changing the election date to November would undoubtedly encourage this.

Let’s not be naive. School board members are not without their individual political perspectives or even political party attachments. Indeed, school board members can concurrently serve in partisan public offices, and more than a few in the South County area have done so over the years. I disagree with this “dual office” practice, but that’s another discussion.

Nevertheless, while serving on a school board, each member is called on to keep the focus on educating

children and not promoting a specific party or interest group agenda. In fact, I have seen board members vote in ways their party or other aligned interest groups such as unions might not, simply because they believed they were making the best-informed decision.

Finally, and unbelievably, HCB 6 mandates that once school board elections are reset to November that newly elected members would not be sworn in until the first Monday in June. That’s right, seven months after their election.

Please contact your legislators telling them you oppose moving school board election dates to November. You can also contact the bill sponsor, Rebecca Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, at 573-751-1456.