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Kansas Changes School Board Elections - KOAM TV 7

Kansas Changes School Board Elections

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PITTSBURG, KANSAS - Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill intended to raise participation in school board elections.

One problem.. Hundreds school boards across the state are against it.

Kansas House Bill 2104, signed Monday, pushes school board elections to the fall on odd numbered years. A move which the governor says will increase voter turnout.  

Up to this point, the elections had taken place in April.

"And the reason was because our fiscal year runs from July to the end of June," USD-250 Superintendent Destry Brown said. "So the elections would be in April and then a new board would come on in July."

In Pittsburg, the USD-250 school board joined the Kansas Association of School Boards, and more than 200 school boards across the state, in passing a resolution opposing the bill.

"Why would we put school board members coming in in the middle of the year, where they didn't help plan it or do anything, and then they finish the year out?" Brown said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

For current school board members, the bill adds roughly 7 months to the planned end of their term before the next election.  

A matter which the state has yet to address.  

"We haven't received any guidance yet," USD-250 School Board President Marlene Willis said. "Or any additional information about when individuals would take office, how the election cycles are going to run."

Besides the move being unnecessary in the eyes of many, local officials are also concerned that the move is a first step towards partisan elections.

"A partisan election is you vote republican or democrat," Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall said. "Right now, if you run for [school board], you don't have to register as a republican or democrat."

"At a local level we work very well together when we don't have our Rs, or our Ds, or Is implanted on our forehead," Willis said. 

An earlier version of the bill held a provision for partisan elections, though it didn't make the final draft.

"I don't think it had anything to do with kids or communities," Brown said. "So I just question the integrity of the process, I guess. I don't think there's any real benefit to changing it."

The governor also signed a bill which gives Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, the power to prosecute election fraud cases.

Something Kobach has been seeking since he took office. 
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