The House has voted 50-18 in favor of SB 1280, Coeur d’Alene Sen. Mary Souza’s bill to move Idaho school board elections from May to November. Among those voting against the bill were House Education Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree; and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.
Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, told the House that the bill was “three years in the making, involved stakeholders and compromise.” Souza originally proposed moving school board elections to November of even-numbered years – the same time as partisan elections for president, governor, Legislature and more; school boards, including the Coeur d'Alene school board, strongly opposed that move. This bill is a compromise, moving the school elections to November of odd-numbered years, the same time as non-partisan city elections.
Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, a longtime teacher, spoke against the bill. She said school districts would prefer to keep their board elections in May, as they are now. “School board elections will be at the bottom of the ballot on those odd-year city elections,” she said. “We limited elections at one point to four times a year, and now we’re limiting elections once again. And because of that, I’ll be voting against it.”
Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, said if school board elections are moved from May, the only elections left on that election date will be highway districts, hospital boards, library districts, water districts and sewer districts. “Part of the consolidated election process was designed to drive more people to the polls, and the thing that was supposed to drive people to the polls in May of odd years was those school board elections,” he said. “Highway district isn’t a particularly glamorous position to hold, or sewer district. The school district is the driving part of that particular election.”
DeMordaunt, the bill’s House sponsor, said in her closing debate that those districts didn’t come forward and oppose the bill.
Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, a retired school superintendent, spoke in support of the bill. “A lot of people didn’t want to have the elections in May because sometimes only 15 or 20 people come out and vote,” he said. “I’ve ran school board elections when that’s all that voted. … It was negotiated, it’s been worked on this for several years.”
The bill already has passed the Senate; it now goes to Gov. Butch Otter.
Here are the 18 “no” votes: Reps. Bedke Blanksma, Chew, Erpelding, Gannon(17), Gannon(5), Horman; King; Kinglsey; Kloc(Tway); Manwaring; McCrostie; Rubel, Smith, Stevenson, Toone, VanOrden and Wood.