Republican lawmakers in Indiana plan to debate several issues related to public schools in their next legislative session in January, including potentially adding the choice to be identified on the ballot with a particular political party when bidding for a seat. school board.
Lawmakers say their goal is to provide parents in the state with more transparency about who teaches their children in public schools and the ability to have more information about what is being taught and why.
Currently, Indiana is one of 42 states where school board elections are non-partisan.
Some critics of the proposal, such as former public school superintendent Jennifer McCormick, say adding politics to the races is “a very bad idea” resulting from heated discussions at local school board meetings. McCormick was elected in 2016 as a Republican, but changed party affiliation.
“I think the people who will be encouraged to come forward are the ones who will be good soldiers for these political agendas,” McCormick said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s hard to find good people who want to do it for the right reason, and they’re out there, but it’s hard. And then you layer that – it’s a whole other layer of difficulty.”
House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, a Republican, said candidates would be allowed to choose whether they were publicly identified with a political party.
“I would say putting an R&D behind your name doesn’t necessarily identify exactly where you’re going to be in terms of school policy,” Behning said. “I see some value, perhaps, in allowing candidates to identify themselves.”
The questions posed for the Indiana legislative session that begins Jan. 4 come amid complaints from Conservatives across the country about public schools.
Others in the Republican-dominated Indiana legislature, however, want to go further.
Republican Representative Bob Morris of Fort Wayne said he had heard many complaints about closed school board meetings and “limited opportunities” for the public to participate in school decisions.
“Many constituents have told me they have no idea what these school board members represent, who they are with, where they are at,” Morris said. “If they have a party affiliation and they are registered with a certain party, then it has to be behind their name. Looking at the politics involved in these school boards, politics is everywhere. We should have partisan races.
Republican lawmakers in other states are pushing legislation banning the teaching of “critical race theory,” which has become a catch-all term for efforts to teach that systemic racism remains a persistent problem in the United States
Indiana’s legislative leaders don’t seem ready to go that far.
Republican House Speaker Todd Huston has said he expects a bill “to ensure parents have more insight and input into educational materials and surveys used in their schools.”
GOP State Senators agree it “is not appropriate to teach that one race is superior to another or inferior to another,” but it is unclear whether any schools teach such concepts , said Republican Senate Speaker Pro Tem Rodric Bray.
“If you go out to schools in the state of Indiana, that definition is really, really nebulous and hard to pin down,” Bray said. “So you will have to talk about what exactly you are trying to stop, rather than just using the words ‘critical breed theory’.”
Tom Simpson, a Yorktown school board member and president of the Indiana School Board Association, said he believed most school board meetings remained civil, as meeting attendance and attendance increased during the pandemic.
“In my opinion, creating potential partisan divisions or putting political ideology ahead of good educational decisions is unwise,” said Simpson. “Electing the most qualified people is much more important than their political affiliation and, with a few exceptions, people got it right. is taking place today without partisan elections. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.