Nov 2, 2023 - News

Ohio school board races may get even more political

Illustration of red and blue broken pencils.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A Northeast Ohio lawmaker wants to make Tuesday's elections our last to feature nonpartisan school board races.

Why it matters: The proposal from state Rep. Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta) would formalize a trend we've observed for years — K-12 schools, and the elections of the officials that govern them, are increasingly becoming political battlegrounds.

  • Loychik says House Bill 267 "will allow voters to get a better idea of what the candidate's platforms are" and "make an informed decision."

Reality check: Every two years, Ohio school boards hold elections for half of their seats, with winners elected to four-year terms. While candidates don't list "R" or "D" next to their names, it's fairly easy to determine online if a party, group or PAC is backing them.

Between the lines: National conservative PACs jump-started the politicization of local school board races with big spending in recent years, per the AP.

The other side: The Ohio School Boards Association opposes the bill because it "will limit the pool of candidates," CEO Kathy McFarland tells Axios.

  • For example, laws prohibit federal and state employees from seeking partisan office.
  • "The best way for voters to be informed ... is to learn about a candidate's beliefs on the issues and determine which candidate will best serve the students in their community," McFarland added.

What we're watching: This idea is picking up steam nationally, with similar proposals in several conservative-leaning states — including our neighbors Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia — though most haven't become law, Education Week reports.

The big picture: Currently, 41 states require nonpartisan school board races, while four states — Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana and Pennsylvania — hold partisan elections.

  • Five others — Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Tennessee — allow for both, which varies between districts.

What's next: Ohio's bill awaits its first hearing in the government oversight committee.

Be smart: View your sample ballot and get to know your district's candidates before voting early or heading to the polls Tuesday.


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