Report: November school board elections grow more hotly contested

Nationally, school board elections are becoming more hotly contested.

Or, at least, that’s the case for school board elections that take place in November.

Ballotpedia, an online political encyclopedia based in Middleton, Wisc., tracked numbers on this month’s trustee elections in the nation’s largest school districts. In 2017, 86 percent of school board candidates faced opposition, up from 74 percent a year ago. In November 2014, only 66 percent of school board candidates were opposed.

School board elections took place this month in 18 states, accounting for 185 of the nation’s 1,000 school districts, according to Ballotpedia’s research.

In Idaho, trustee elections are generally held in May in odd-numbered years — and many districts scramble to find candidates for the volunteer posts. In the West Ada School District, Idaho’s largest district, this year’s elections were called off when no challengers filed to run against incumbents Ed Klopfenstein and Steve Smylie.

However, the timing of Idaho trustee elections could change — and soon.

For the past two years, state Sen. Mary Souza has pushed to move school board races to November in even-numbered years. Souza’s argument has not centered on attracting candidates; instead, the Coeur d’Alene Republican says a shift would improve voter turnout in trustee races.

Education lobbyists have opposed Souza’s bills, saying nonpartisan school board elections should not share a ballot with partisan elections for president, Congress, governor and the Legislature. But last week, in a preemptive strike, the Idaho School Boards Association endorsed moving trustee races to November in odd-numbered years. If this change goes into effect, school board elections would share a ballot with nonpartisan city elections.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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