OKLAHOMA CITY – Seeking to increase voter participation, state Rep. Josh Cockroft has filed legislation that would place all local school board elections on the November general election ballot.
“Under the current system, instead of electing school board members who represent the views of a majority of Oklahomans, we find school board members who represent the views of the establishment are elected through voter-turnout machines,” Cockroft said. “Little emphasis is put on these elections in odd times of the year; therefore our students suffer as a result. If we are really as committed to education as we say we are during campaign years, then this is an easy step to take.”
Currently, school board elections are held on the second Tuesday in February or on the date of the presidential primary every fourth year.
House Bill 1544 would place all school board elections on the second Tuesday of November in odd-numbered years and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of any even-numbered year.
The legislation also changes the terms of school board members so that every board member in Oklahoma serves a four-year term with elections staggered every other year. Currently school board members have terms of three, four, or five years, depending on the size of the school board.
Cockroft noted growing support for moving school board elections to November, including a September 26, 2011 editorial in The Oklahoman (“Moving school board elections might help counter voter apathy”) and a Journal Record column by Oklahoma City University law professor Andrew Spiropoulos (“Taking back control of our schools”). Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has also endorsed the proposal.
“If we want our schools to truly improve and thrive, we must do more to involve the entire community in their future,” Cockroft said. “Forcing school board candidates to appeal to a broad electorate instead of status-quo special-interest groups will result in better policy in each district and a better future for Oklahoma students.”