Aaron Churchill, the Ohio research director for the Fordham Institute, this morning wants to make the case for partisan school board elections.
Lots of states have non- or bi-partisan school board elections. Ohio doesn't note a party affiliation. In Pennsylvania, candidates can cross file and run in both R and D primaries, and so are listed as both parties on the final ballot. Churchill notes that this fall districts are pre-occupied with things like masking and "critical race theory" (in other words, things actually not directly related to actual education) and school board are, for sure, currently heating up.
Churchill notes that a "small body of research" shows that, lacking partisan labels, voters choose based on an assortment of bad reasons, and it's certainly true that an awful lot of US citizens do a crappy job of fulfilling their civic election duty. I'm just not convinced that adding an R or D label to school board elections doesn't just add one more bad reason to choose a candidate.
Is there a Democrat or Republican approach to education? Neither party has ever shown itself to be particularly interested in or knowledgeable about public education. "When leading our local school district, I will follow my party's line," is a terrible pledge for candidates from any party. Nor does party affiliation reveal a particular bent. A Democrat could be a public education supporter, or a corporate education reformster with privatization on their mind. A Republican could be a traditional GOP supporter of public education (as long as it doesn't get too spendy) or a raving Trumper intent on keeping masks and Black Person Stuff out of schools.
Churchill asksAre nonpartisan elections really insulating public schools from divisive politics? Or is it naïve to think that school boards are apolitical governing bodies? If indeed there are ideological differences about how to run schools and educate children, shouldn’t the electorate get a hint about where candidates are likely to stand?