Coming Tuesday: A first-of-its-kind school election day

School elections will share the ballot with city elections on Tuesday.

But they won’t necessarily get an equal share of the spotlight.

Only four districts will go to voters seeking property tax levies. Lemhi County voters will decide whether to join the College of Eastern Idaho’s property tax district. And for the first time, Idaho voters will elect school trustees during a November election — but many voters won’t even notice the difference, because most school board races won’t even appear on the ballot.

Tuesday’s school board elections

After years of false starts and failed bills, the 2018 Legislature finally engineered the shift to November trustee elections. The law, a compromise between Republican bill sponsors and the Idaho School Boards Association, puts trustees’ races on the same ballot with elections for mayor and City Council. Like trustees’ elections, municipal elections are nonpartisan.

Lawmakers wanted to move school board races from May to November in hopes of addressing a chronic issue: abysmal voter turnout.

It’s too early, of course, to know whether the move will improve voter turnout. But this year’s trustee elections didn’t exactly attract a crowd of candidates.

All told, 274 school board terms are expiring this fall, according to an Idaho Education News analysis. But the vast majority of these races won’t appear on the ballot, since only one candidate filed to run. Under state law, districts can call off a school board election if only one candidate is running.

In a dozen races, no candidates filed at all, which means the trustee seats will be vacant.

So what’s left? Sixty-two contested races in 40 school districts — barely a third of Idaho’s 115 districts.

Some races will play out in districts that are no stranger to controversy.

In Emmett — where trustees pushed to replace longtime Superintendent Wayne Rush this summer, in a move that violated Idaho’s open meetings law — 10 candidates are vying for five board seats. Eight candidates are seeking three spots in New Plymouth, a year after former Superintendent Kevin Barker took a $400,000 buyout from a private donor, and trustees also violated open meetings law in hiring a successor. Seven candidates will seek three positions in Teton County, months after trustees voted to replace the high school’s “Redskins” mascot. Middleton trustee Tim Winkle faces an opponent Tuesday, after narrowly surviving a recall election in August.

Here’s the full rundown of contested board races:

Arbon. Zone 1: Jake Evans (incumbent), Ashlee Fitch.

Bear Lake County. Zone 1: Kade Grunig, Richard Smart (both are write-in candidates).

Blackfoot. Zone 2: Carlos Mercado (incumbent), Karen Clark Driscoll.

Blaine County. Zone 1: Amber Larna, Alexis Lindberg.

Buhl. Zone 4: Anita Lara (incumbent), Danielle Richardson.

Caldwell. Zone 2: Manuel J. Godina, Dan Kener. Zone 4: Charles Stout (incumbent), Andrew Butler.

Camas County. Zone 5: William Simon (incumbent), Amy Botz.

Castleford. Zone 3: Jason Nunez (incumbent), Melissa Inchausti (both are write-in candidates).

Challis. Zone 2: Trish Farr (incumbent), David Philps.

Dietrich. Zone 2: Max Auker, Dolly Power, Valarie Varadi. Zone 5: Perry Van Tassell (incumbent), Scott Zimmer.

Emmett (voters select five candidates). Terry A Jones (incumbent), Robert C Teeter (incumbent), Ronnie Weekes (incumbent), Tiffiny (Ruegner) Anderson, Mike Garner, Mark L. Helms, Michael Kimball, Nicole Mitts, M. Ross Walker, Houston “Hoss” White.

Filer. Zone 1: Bryce L. Bowman (incumbent), K. Chuck Reinke. Zone 4: Gary W. Davis, Julie Koyle, Ben Lancaster.

Firth. Zone 2: Brian Esplin (incumbent), Robyn S. Mitchell.

Garden Valley. Zone 3: Morris Morgan (incumbent), Ken Donley.

Idaho Falls. Zone 3: Lara Hill (incumbent), Jim De Angelis. Zone 4: G. Larry Haws (incumbent), Elizabeth Cogliati, Jacob Johnson.

Kimberly. Zone 1: Chad Allen, Dyllon Cunningham, Danae Klimes. Zone 5: Myron Nield (incumbent), Bryce Stanger.

Lake Pend Oreille. Zone 4: Geraldine Lewis (incumbent), Tara V. Tribbett.

Lakeland. Zone 1: Rena Olmstead (incumbent), Randi Bain. Zone 2: John Michael Shaffer (incumbent), Ramona Grissom. Zone 3: Tim Skubitz (incumbent), Michelle J. Thompson.

Marsh Valley. Zone 2: Jill Gunter, Kurt Willis. Zone 4: Don Nielsen (incumbent), Shelly Jones.

Marsing. Zone 4: Deborah Holzhey, Sean R. Rowley.

Middleton. Zone 3:Tim Winkle (incumbent), Briggs L. Miller.

Mountain View. Zone 2: Casey Smith (incumbent), Norma Staaf. Zone 4: Michael Dominguez (incumbent), Pam Reidlen.

New Plymouth. Zone 1: Mark Haws (incumbent), Phil Pittman. Zone 2: David Brogan (incumbent), Dean Jones, Doug Rupp. Zone 5: Darrell Brown (incumbent), H. Lane Austin, Darrell Ocamica.

Nezperce. Zone 2: Greg R. Branson, Quinton D. Wemhoff.

North Gem. Zone 5: MaLissa Barfuss, Suzanne Barfuss, Michalene Rindlisbaker.

Oneida. Zone 3: Kirk Willie (incumbent), Mary B. Young. Zone 4: Chalae Cox Teeples, Patrick Evans (write-in).

Orofino. Zone 1: Sarah McGrath (incumbent), Greg Garot.

Parma. Zone 4: Kelli D. Brassfield, Jamie Davison, Kurt Kaiser, Heidi Smith-Takatori, Dusty Tveidt.

Pocatello-Chubbuck. Zone 3: James Facer, Eric Lee Stewart. Zone 4: Paul Vitale (incumbent), Oliver Ormsby Ahmu, Idaho Lorax Carta.

Salmon. Zone 3: Gerald “Jerry” Holley, Chuck Overacker.

South Lemhi. Zone 4: Aleta M. Ries, Christopher Staley.

Swan Valley. Zone 1: Jessica Poole (incumbent), David D. McClure (write-in).

Teton County. Zone 1: Jackie D. Cooke, Shannon Brooks Hamby. Zone 2: Debbie M. Hunt, Ticia Sheets. Zone 5: Nan Pugh (incumbent), Alexie Schiess Hulme, Cricket Romanzi.

Troy. Zone 2: Kyle Osborn (incumbent), John N. Menter.

Twin Falls. Zone 2: Paul McClintock (incumbent), Brad Breland. Zone 5: Anthony Avelar, Heidi Casdorph.

Wallace. Zone 3: Anna Berger (incumbent), Sam Lavigne, James McMillan.

Weiser. Zone 1: Cary Gibbs (incumbent), Justin H. Erickson. Zone 5: Kerry W. Nyce (incumbent), Russell Haggerty, Crystal Torres.

West Ada. Zone 2: Mike Vuittonet (incumbent), Amy Johnson.

West Bonner County. Zone 1: Margaret W. Hall (incumbent), Lesa Souza. Zone 3: Bruce Hollett (incumbent), Troy Reinbold.

West Jefferson. Zone 1: Burton D. Allen (incumbent), Andrea Rigby.

Tuesday’s school levies

Nampa: Two-year, $24.15 million supplemental levy. The state’s third-largest school district plans to use the renewed levy to maintain teaching positions, support extracurricular programs, purchase curriculum and classroom technology and bankroll an annual independent audit.

Voters passed a two-year, $18.75 million levy in November 2017.

Supplemental levies need a simple majority to pass.

Lake Pend Oreille: Indefinite supplemental levy, $12.7 million per year.

If a district collects a voter-approved supplemental levy for at least seven consecutive years — and the levy accounts for at least a fifth of the budget — state law allows the district to ask voters to make the levy permanent.

That’s what Lake Pend Oreille is seeking Tuesday.

The permanent levy would kick in in 2021, and it would replace a $12.7 million-a-year levy that passed in March.

Officials say levies cover more than a third of the North Idaho district’s 300 full- and part-time positions, and helps cover extracurricular programs, curriculum and classroom technology and school safety. All told, officials say levies account for 35 percent of the district’s budget.

An indefinite levy needs a simple majority to pass.

Minidoka County: Two-year, $4.5 million supplemental levy. The Magic Valley district hopes to use the money for a variety of capital projects and purchases — including video security upgrades, playgrounds and student laptops. Voters approved a slightly smaller $4.45 million levy two years ago.

Swan Valley: Five-year, $500,000 plant facilities levy. The rural Bonneville County elementary district says its top priority is an upgraded heating system. The district also hopes to replace a school bus and finish upgrades recommended by the state’s Office of School Safety and Security. The plant facilities levy needs a 55 percent supermajority to pass. In May, a larger, $2.1 million proposal received only 15 percent support.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.

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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