Penzo, Beaty want partisan school board races

By February 7, 2023No Comments

Senate Bill 206 would require school board candidates to select a political party

School board elections are some of the last nonpartisan races in our state, and for good reason. Whether it’s teacher retention or facilities management, local district issues shouldn’t be partisan, and the candidates running in these races should not be forced to align with a political party. Our state leaders disagree, however, as do extremist groups looking to politicize local school board races and education practices across the country. The goal? Make even the most local issues hyper-politicized. It’s a tactic they employ at every opportunity, with the hope of dividing Arkansans and enshrining their own power.

Tucked into 7 pages about election date requirements, SB206 specifies that “a district school board member shall be elected at the general election,” and “the position of district school board member shall be elected at a partisan election.

Requiring partisan school board races is all about control at the state and local level. Early on in the pandemic, savvy Republicans saw how school board races could be the new culture war battlegrounds. By tapping into parental frustrations with school closings and mask mandates, the GOP found a way to weaponize local education issues. It’s no secret groups like Moms for Liberty are dedicated to school board takeovers. And it’s no secret the tactic is more about power and less about our kids. Last year National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Rick Scott gushed that Moms for Liberty-backed candidates would help the GOP win races up and down ballots. “If you guys run, you are going to make everybody else win,” he said.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our majority members focused on solving problems instead of politicizing every small thing? Partisan school board races are not about protecting our kids or unifying our districts. It’s literally the opposite: the move is meant to insulate Republican power and divide our communities — neither of which are good reasons to pass this bill. SB206 will only serve to inflame polarizations, stoke fear, and fracture our communities.