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115 Local School Boards Would Become Partisan Under Proposed Law

Ballot Box

North Carolina Republicans want to continue tweaking voters' experience at the ballot by allowing candidates for the Supreme Court and local school boards to publicly run with the support of their political party. 

A state legislative committee on Tuesday gave the first nod to two proposals that would make partisan the races for the state’s two highest courts—the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals—and the state’s 115 school districts.

While Democratic resisted a bill making judicial races partisan, it was the plan for local school board races that split Republicans.

Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow), a lead sponsor of House Bill 324, told the House of Representatives committee on elections that voters in school board elections should know the political philosophy of candidates.

“We’ve already had a discussion on nonpartisanship,” Cleveland said. “I don’t think it exists, truthfully.”

Opponents of the measure said politics should be kept out of educational decisions and that individual counties should be allowed to decide whether to have partisan elections for school board. Lawmakers can introduce legislation to make school board elections in their district partisan. At least 15 school boards, including those in Forsyth and New Hanover counties, have partisan elections, according to the State Board of Elections.

Rep. Skip Stam (R-Wake) said, “To do this to Wake County would just be more excitement than I can tolerate. I think that's true of half the state. I think this ought to be done on a local bill basis.”

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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