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Experts say school board elections are becoming more competitive

Election season is upon us, and some of the most talked about races on social media are school boards.
School Board Hamilton Co.
Posted at 7:29 PM, Oct 19, 2022

HAMILTON COUNTY— Election season is upon us, and some of the most talked about races on social media are school boards. When you drive through either Noblesville or Carmel, signs supporting certain candidates can be seen everywhere. Experts that study campaigns and elections like Laura Wilson say these races are getting more competitive than in years past.

"People thought of school boards as making decisions of who to hire and what textbooks to use,” Wilson, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Indianapolis, said. “We recognize the power the school boards have in a community, and I think you see a number of candidates that are interested in being part of that decision making process which I think is part of why these are more competitive races."

To find out what was important to Hamilton County voters that were voting in the school board race, we asked them three different questions.

The following are the answers a few of our interviewees gave.

Meredith: “Why are you voting in the school board election?”

Jake Stafford, Noblesville Parent: “Public schools are one of the most important cornerstones of our community. Here, Noblesville is the biggest employer of this city. Also being a father you know, school is the foundation of any good community. So, it's important that the people in position are making the right decisions for our kids.”

Meredith: What is the biggest issue facing your child’s school?

Stafford: “We're in a very good area as far as the other communities around us. So, it's definitely going to be funding for the future expansion, keeping our good teachers here and having competitive salaries, being able to keep up the beautiful facilities, and also making sure we can deliver, you know, the top rigorous curriculum here at the school.”

Meredith: “What do you want to hear from candidates?”

Stafford: “Just what their vision for the future is, you know. How we expect to go from, you know, Good to Great, and continue to grow here as a community and get us moving in the right direction and continue to expand and make sure that our kids have every resource available to them to be successful in the future.”

We also spoke with another parent, Kristi Kennedy of Carmel, whose daughter is in second grade. She had just voted. We asked her the same questions and got much different responses.

Meredith: “Why did you vote in the school board election?”

Kennedy: “I think it's really important for parents and children who are in the school system to have a voice and make sure that our voices are heard.”

Meredith: "What do you feel like is the biggest issue that's facing your child’s school right now?"

Kennedy: “I don't know if it's necessarily a problem in our schools, but transparency about the curriculum that is being taught in our schools, parent involvement in the curriculum and voicing that. I think that it seems across the country, recently, we have a lot of areas that think that they are actually in charge of our children, and they have a say in what our children should be learning. I think that everybody forgets they're our children, and we should have a voice. And we should actually have the most influence, I would say, not even just the voice, but we should be able to dictate what's in our school system and what's being taught to our children.”

Meredith: “What were you looking to hear from candidates?”

Kennedy: “That they want us to be involved. You know, you're seeing in school systems across the country where the school boards are pushing parents out, and they want to do things behind closed doors or in bubbles. I don't think that's right at all; we should be involved. So, we wanted to make sure that the candidates were saying we want to hear from the parents, it's important. I think [that] another big issue [is] the schools focusing on the academics, I don't need them to teach my child about, social issues, topics and things like that. That's our job to take care of in the home. I want them to stick with the basics of education and what we're wanting to teach our children to learn so that we can be competitive in the marketplace when they grow up.”

School board candidates run on nonpartisan tickets, meaning they don’t claim a party affiliation. However, topics like critical race theory, vaccination status, what books kids are reading, social emotional learning and learning about diversity are often topics brought up by school board candidates. As you read above, many feel schools should stick to the basics. While more attention has been brought to school board over the last couple of years, political experts say it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

"Voters are given a choice,” Wilson said. “They hopefully are more motivated to become educated and to consider the different candidates to think about the futures of either of their policies and to ultimately make the decision of who to support. "

To view a list of candidates in Hamilton County click here.