Boswell bill would make Dare school board elections partisan

By on March 8, 2017

 Elections for seats on the Dare County Board of Education would become partisan races starting next year under legislation introduced Tuesday in the state House by Rep. Beverly Boswell (R-Dare).

Since 1993, Dare County non-partisan school board races have had elections on the party primary day in even-numbered years. Members then take office at the first board meeting in July.

Under the new legislation, with a primary held in the first part of the year and the general election in November, school board members would begin their terms on the first Monday of December.

This is the second time in recent years a bill to make the Dare school board races partisan, according to chairperson Bea Basnight.

“Partisanship is never a part of the conversation when we make decisions for our schools,” Basnight said.

A similar bill has been introduced by Republicans in the Senate to make all of North Carolina’s school board and city council races partisan, and also shift municipal elections from odd-numbered to even-numbered years.

The General Assembly is one vote away from approving House Bill 100 to put party affiliations back on the ballot for district and superior court judicial candidates. Boswell was a co-sponsor of the House version.

Party affiliation was on the N.C. Court of Appeals ballot last November. And in a December special session the General Assembly approved making Supreme Court races partisan.

“Board of Education members are elected in May and take office in July providing them time to become familiar with the budget, the staffs and school operations before the school year begins,” Basnight said. “Everyone is ‘on board’ for our students and staff at the beginning and throughout the school year.”

Proponents say putting party affiliation in all elections gives voters more information about the candidate they are voting for, and adds transparency to a candidate’s belief system that influences their decision making.

Those against the bills agree with Basnight on the school board issue, and others note that governing cities is easier and fairer when partisanship is left out of the equation.

“My personal opinion is partisanship has no place in education,” Basnight said. “Education is education for every child, and we do not educate our children as Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or any other political party.”

Others said it would make it much more difficult for unaffiliated candidates to run because of North Carolina’s petition process to get on the ballot.

The changes specified for Dare County’s Board of Education in House Bill 265 would start with the 2018 election cycle when three seats will come up for a vote.

Those are currently held by Charlotte White representing Roanoke Island and mainland Dare (District 1), Joe Tauber who represents Nags Head, Colington and Kill Devil Hills (District 2), and Margaret Lawler representing Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores and Duck (District 3).

“I have always believed that partisan politics has nothing to do with education,” Lawler said.

The other four seats, representing districts 1, 2, and 4 (Hatteras Island) and the at-large seat, are due for election in 2020.

The measure would also make similar changes to the school board election in Beaufort County, which Boswell also represents, and Haywood County in the North Carolina mountains. Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Yancey) and Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow).

Boswell did not respond to requests for comment on the measure.

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