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LWVIN CoPresident testifies about SB188 at the General Assembly

Linda Hanson | Published on 1/30/2023

CoPresident Linda Hanson testified regarding the LWVIN's opposition to SB188 (partisan school board elections) before the Senate Elections Committee on January 30, 2023.  Indianapolis.

Here is her statement:

Testimony on SB 188

Good morning. I am Linda Hanson, Muncie, Indiana, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Indiana. I am here to state our opposition to SB 188.

The League’s unflinching non-partisanship directs us to examine issues from every angle and to base our positions on what best serves ALL Hoosiers. SB 188 will not serve Hoosiers well, not now nor into the future.

This bill would insert politics at the local level by making school board candidates declare a party and be approved by the local party before being able to appear on the ballot.

Our concerns:

1. Many qualified school board candidates would run in a non-partisan election but would choose not to run if required to do so as members of a political party. Our experience in Muncie bears out this observation. Candidates for school board should be elected on their qualifications, merits, experience, and platform, no matter their political party affiliation.

2. Partisan election implies primary and general elections, increasing the cost for each candidate to run. Primary elections also increase the likelihood of more extreme candidates winning, and exacerbating our partisan divisions.

3. Many qualified school board candidates would be prohibited from running because the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, and state and local government employees whose salaries are paid entirely with federal funds, from running for partisan office. That would prevent the 25,000 Hoosiers employed by the federal government and those who work for state and local courts from serving on their local school board.

4. Our teacher shortage could immediately increase—non-partisan teachers already dealing with partisan controversies could decide to leave the profession or the state, and new teachers could choose to begin their careers in states where public schools are not run by partisan school boards.

5. Local party politicians could potentially have outsize influence over school board actions and policies—including over the choice of superintendent since superintendents are no longer required to possess a superintendent’s license.

6. Patronage could become a problem--Party allegiance could become a consideration in personnel decisions, such as the hiring, promotion, and retention of teachers, administrators, and staff.

7. Most importantly, politics may compromise the ability of school boards to put students first if members feel conflicted about where their allegiances truly lie.

In 2017 we opposed making the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction position appointed rather than elected, but we applauded the Indiana General Assembly’s rationale for doing so, to remove politics from K-12 education.

This bill would do precisely the opposite. It has the potential to divide our communities and exacerbate partisan controversies in the boards governing our public schools that must serve all children. We urge you to maintain the current law on non-partisan school boards.

Please vote NO on SB 188.