Senate approves school board elections shift

The Senate approved a bill to move school board elections from their traditional May date.

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene

Sen. Mary Souza’s Senate Bill 1280 would shift trustee races to November in odd-numbered years — meaning school board races would share space on a ballot with nonpartisan city elections.

Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, says the move will increase voter turnout, improve the quality of school board candidates and ultimately improve the quality of schools. Her co-sponsor, Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, considers SB 1280 a step toward solving a bigger problem — bridging the disconnect between school districts and patrons.

Souza and Rice have pushed to move school board elections for years. In the past, they have proposed a shift to the November ballot in even-numbered years. The Idaho School Boards Association fought this move, which would put nonpartisan trustee races on the same ballot with partisan elections for president, governor, Congress and the Legislature.

The ISBA does not oppose this year’s version of the bill, and considers it a compromise that would keep trustee elections on a nonpartisan ballot.

But the rewrite doesn’t allay the concerns of county officials. They say it will be difficult to layer school board races onto municipal ballots, since school election boundaries do not align with city lines. And state Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said the bill would pass on a heavy price tag to counties.

Officially, the bill’s fiscal note says the counties’ election costs should “remain near current levels.” But in her debate, Souza said the costs are “unknowable” — but she suggested some counties could save money by eliminating May school elections.

The bill passed on a 22-11 vote. (Voting no were Sens. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley; Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise; Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise; Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs; Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston; Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise; Abby Lee, R-Fruitland; Mark Nye, D-Pocatello; Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise; and Stennett. Sens. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls; and Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, were absent.)

SB 1280 now goes to the House.

Bonding transparency bill

The House passed a rewritten bill to require school districts and local governments to disclose the taxpayer cost of a bond issue.

House Bill 626 would require ballot language spelling out the duration of a bond issue, and the cost of a bond issue per $100,000 of taxable property.

Sponsored by Rep. Ronald Nate, R-Rexburg, HB 626 passed on a 62-8 vote. (Voting no were Reps. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom; Maxine Bell, R-Jerome; Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton; Marc Gibbs, R-Grace; Clark Kauffman, R-Filer; Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello; Kelley Packer, R-McCammon; and Sally Toone, D-Gooding.)

The bill now heads to the Senate.



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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