Two Bills Would Remake School Elections in More Partisan Mold

Two bills in front of lawmakers would remake school elections in Idaho.

Both bills House Bill 58 and House Bill 171 were introduced by Rep. Joe Alfieri (R- Coeur d’ Alene). Together, they would make three significant changes:

  • School trustees would serve two-year terms, down from their current four-year terms.
  • Trustees would have to declare a party affiliation — or their unaffiliated status.
  • Trustee elections would move to November on even-numbered years, in conjunction with other partisan general elections. Currently, trustee races are held in November of odd-numbered years, in conjunction with nonpartisan municipal races.

“These bills leave school districts no other option than running board, bond and levy elections during politically charged and partisan primary elections in May and general elections in November,” said IEA Associate Executive Director Matt Compton. “The addition of the party affiliation declaration requirement for school board candidates will make school elections even more partisan — and likely marginalize many candidates who want to do good in the schools, but don’t have the backing of party operatives.”

The legislation comes as local bond and levy elections grow in importance for school districts facing budget shortfalls for fundamental expenses after decades of Idaho chronically underfunding public schools.

In fact, according to a recent Idaho Education News report, the coming March 14 bond and levy elections (which will happen before House Bill 58 will take effect, if approved) could the largest school bond and levy election day in recent memory.

House Bill 58 was sent to the amending order on Friday and House Bill 171 awaits its first hearing in the House State Affairs Committee.

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