One thing I know for certain is that of the hundreds of classrooms I’ve been in, I have NEVER seen one labeled as Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian or whatever. As best I can tell, classrooms, especially in elementary schools, are about as apolitical as you can get.
So why do we insist on interjecting politics into county school board elections when we don’t do it for municipal school board seats? Why the double standard?
If a city school board seat is considered non-partisan, why not the same for county school boards? After all, a county school board is a small body of people where, at least in my opinion, any political allegiance should be checked at the door. We live in a time where partisanship to some political party or ideology plays far too great a role in actions politicians take. This has no place where school children are involved.
Obviously my recent experience in running for the Montgomery County school board as a Republican figure greatly in this discussion. When I qualified I had the notion that candidates would have candid and frank discussions about ideas concerning education and voters would make their choice based on the same.
What ensued was almost anything BUT this. My candidacy as a Republican was challenged, not once, but twice. Instead of thinking about education issues, I was forced to spend a lot of time and energy defending my candidacy. And though both challenges were denied, I was still the object of negative campaigning that centered on partisan politics–not education.
However, had I and all the other candidates running not been branded by a party label, just simply citizens trying to offer their services, the tone of the campaigns would certainly have been different.
All municipal school board members are non-partisan. When someone in Decatur, Birmingham or Dothan run for their local school board they don’t run as a Republican or Democrat.
We need to do the same for county boards.
Here is how it could work.
There were votes for five different board seats in Montgomery on June 5. District 1 had a Democrat primary but the incumbent Republican was unopposed and will run in November. District 2 had five candidates in both Democrat and Republican primaries. District 3 only had two Democrats running. District 5 had two Republicans and four Democrats, while District 6 had five Democrats.
So all candidates, Democrat and Republican alike, would have been listed on the respective district ballots as non-partisan. For instance, in District 2, where I ran, ballots given to both Republican and Democrat primary voters would have had all five candidates listed together with instructions to vote for one. If no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters would then face each other in the general election.
District 2 had a total of 5,043 votes cast in both primaries. Ted Lowry lead all candidates with 2,186 votes. I got 896, Democrats Brenda Irby got 833, Clare Weil got 741 and Misty Messick had 387. Since Lowry did not get a majority on June 5, he and I would run again in November.
This is not to imply that had all 5,043 voters had the chance to vote for any one of the five candidates that the end result would’ve been the same. For instance, I am certain Democrat Clare Weil would have gotten a number of Republican votes and I would have gotten some that went to a Democrat. And for certain the dynamics of campaigns would have changed.
An open primary would be a more “honest” process because candidates would have to appeal to all potential voters, not just those who are most likely to vote either for a Democrat or a Republican. You would not have what are basically white campaigns and black campaigns, but ones where all voters are considered equals in the first election.
District 5 was the only other district with both Republican and Democrat primaries. A total of 7,394 votes were cast. Republican Jannah Bailey got 3,075 votes, Republican Melissa Snowden got 1,967 and Democrats Rhonda Oats got 1,075, Devona Sims got 610, Carey Owens, Jr. got 427 and Dianelle Gross got 240. Which means Bailey and Snowden would run again in November.
While we normally think that the top two vote getters usually run to see who comes out on top, under our present system, this is not the case. Though Snowden and I got more votes on June 5 than any of the Democrats in our district, we were eliminated.
I am sure there will be people who claim my proposal is only because of how the June 5 election turned out, but that is not the case. I strongly believe our present system puts too much focus on politics and too little on how schools should be governed. Besides, we are already doing this for municipal school board elections.
I have run this idea by a number of Republican friends, especially legislators. Not ONE has raised an objection.
All we need is one of the 140 members of the legislature to propose such a change.