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Local school board races becoming more contentious

What exactly does a school board member do?
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Posted at 9:38 PM, Nov 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-07 21:38:30-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The polls open at 6 a.m. on Election Day.

The results will determine everything from the power in congress to who sits on your local school board.

School board races have become a hot topic of conversation. The Indiana School Board Association says these races have become more contentious.

"I think in more a widespread way we could say that it has been,” Steve Horton, Director of Board Services at ISBA said. “But then I don't know that there is ever time in the history of our public schools and our public school boards that there hasn't been contentiousness and there hasn't been issues that school board members have to be able to field and work with. "

School board members have several responsibilities. They evaluate and employ the superintendent. They also make sure that schools are being fiscally responsible, and they oversee policy.

They do so by working with school administration. The curriculum is a topic that school board members consider.

" School boards do not set the curriculum,” Horton said. “They do however consider the recommendations from the superintendent who is working very closely with his or her administration and people to develop a good sound curriculum."

Typically, school board candidates run on a nonpartisan ticket. This election cycle some candidates have been endorsed by both state and federal officeholders. Something political experts say is very uncommon

" This is increasing trends that we see organized interest put money behind school boards,” Laura Wilson, an Associate Professor of Political Science at UIndy said. “Increasing trends in terms of endorsements and this is the first cycle where I have seen current elected office holders at this level a statewide of federal office making these kinds of endorsements on behalf of school board candidates. “

Wilson says These endorsements and partisan candidates are a result of our country being divided on a political front.

"I think a lot of voters and organized interests are looking at this as an important question and important thing that has to be decided and important debate in American politics of who has the right to do what, " Wilson said.

At the end of the day regardless of if a nonpartisan or a partisan candidate wins, the Indiana School Board Association hopes the incoming candidates understand the scope of the office.

" Once you are a school board member that work is nonpartisan,” Horton said. “That's the reason for the nonpartisan elections, and the idea is that you work closely with the other school board members. "

The Indiana School Board Association says school boards do their best work when they work in a non-partisan way. A school board member's main job is to oversee the school, not pick the curriculum being taught to students.