Nothing suppresses votes more than holding school elections NOT on election day. For that reason, Arkansas Learns strongly supports SB587, aligning school elections with the general election.
So, it’s no surprise that the usual suspects are lining up to oppose democratizing school elections, long isolated in September and dominated by insiders – incumbent school board members (Arkansas School Boards Association), central administrators (Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators), and teachers’ unions (Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association).
In an email to his members, Ron Harder, advocacy director for the Arkansas School Boards Association, writes:
“Senate Bill 587 is another attempt to move the school board election to the November General Election with the winning candidates taking office the first week of January. There are several problems with moving the date of school board elections.
Yeah, like what?
“Currently, voters in school elections participate because they know the candidates and are generally well informed of the candidates’ positions. While voting in November might increase the voter turnout, that’s not the same thing as informed voters.”
Hmmm. How about a poll tax while you’re at it?! Literacy test anyone? Those aggressively opposing Voter ID proposals on the basis of voter suppression should direct their ire to this unconscionable characterization of the electorate in defense of the current system which draws 100 times less voter turnout than the general
“Non-partisan school board candidates may get lost in the maze of other general election candidates, and the cost of campaigning at that time may be substantially higher than prior to the September election. Run-off elections would be held around Thanksgiving; hardly conducive to high voter turn-out.
So, those charged with running the largest local government entities in Arkansas shouldn’t be subjected to the same scrutiny as say quorum court members, city council members, mayors, county judges, prosecuting attorneys, judiciary, state legislators, constitutional officers, congressmen, senators, vice president and president? The November run-off generates approximately 100 times more turnout than the current school election runoff. In other words, exponentially conducive to high voter turn-out.
“With newly elected candidates assuming office in January, it is likely that at their first meeting they would face the task of rehiring the superintendent. Especially after the census reorganization of school boards, this could result in a majority of newly elected board members being responsible for renewing or non-renewing the superintendent’s contract.”
Oh, just like our legislature and constitutional officers are sworn in just before the session begins. I guess that means Mr. Harder doesn’t think our freshman legislators qualified to make the laws of the State of Arkansas. After all, deciding whether or not to renew a superintendent’s contract is far more complicated than anything the legislature will tackle.
“Due to statutory restrictions, school board candidates would have to be on a separate ballot which would be confusing to voters and would cause major headaches for county clerks and poll workers. Board member zones don’t align with other general election candidates or with county lines, which complicates the logistics of voting ballots and the voting process during the general election.
Well then let’s fix the statutory restriction. True, board member zones don’t align with other general election candidates or county lines, but neither do quorum court members, city council members, prosecuting attorneys, state representatives, state senators and United States representatives.
“This bill is on the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee agenda for Thursday, March 7th. Please contact your legislators and encourage them to vote against this bill.
“You also are encouraged to contact members of the Senate State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee. They are:
Eddie Joe Williams, Chair; EddieJoe.Williams@senate.ar.gov
Jane English, Vice Chair; Jane.English@senate.ar.gov
David Johnson; David.Johnson@senate.ar.gov
Bobby Pierce; Bobby.Pierce@senate.ar.gov
Robert Thompson; Robert.Thompson@senate.ar.gov
Jimmy Hickey; Jimmy.Hickey@senate.ar.gov
Bryan King; Bryan.King@senate.ar.gov
Gary Stubblefield; Gary.Stubblefield@senate.ar.gov
“Thank you for your assistance with this important pending legislative concern.
Arkansas School Boards Association”
Fortunately, the bill got a DO PASS out of committee, but yes, please do contact these and the rest of the senators, and ask them to finally enfranchise parents, property tax payers, and citizens in the governance of their public schools. The performance of our students (or lack thereof) are a direct result of those adult self-interests which have dominated local and state education policy for decades.
In Arkansas, the people rule, not Mr. Harder’s “informed voters.” Regnat Populus.
Note: Arkansas Learns members wishing to take action on this and other state and local bills (tracking, voting, commenting, writing legislators), should click here and register for Arkansas Learns’ legislative action site, powered by Votility. For convenience, register using your same login and password as ArkansasLearns.org.