EDITORIAL: Local government should remain politics free

·2 min read

Jul. 25—School board and local city council elections have previously been an oasis of nonpartisan participation in community-level governing.

Unfortunately, that's not always the case anymore.

Candidates who may have been considered more liberal or more conservative in a general sense have run in the past, but not as an organized group as some local areas are now seeing.

In Rochester four members of a conservative bloc are running together for school board with the hopes of securing a majority on the board, according to a recent MPR News report. At least one of them attended board meetings to speak up against masking during the pandemic and against critical race theory being part of the curriculum. CRT is a college-level subject that is not being taught in Minnesota public schools.

Endorsements may not be in play yet, but it's clear that organized efforts, such as the Center of the American Experiment's "Raise Our Standards" state tour last summer, has strategically motivated people to run for school boards who have an obvious groupthink agenda.

Increased participation in government at the local level is a great thing — if it's done for the right reasons. Jumping on a bandwagon with people who shout the loudest doesn't speak to having the best interests at heart of student bodies or city residents.

There also is a lot more to being on a board or council than two or three issues that have drawn the most attention. Examining budgets, tackling personnel issues, shaping policies, developing strategic plans, receiving committee assignments, fielding complaints from the public you serve — all of those routine but very important duties come with winning an election and filling a seat on a board or council.

Keeping local bodies nonpartisan has been an asset when it comes to running a school district or city that effectively works for the general good of the public. You might not understand the life of a student who qualifies for free school meals, but it's up to you as a school board member to make sure that child, and as many as possible, get as complete of an education as possible. It's not about making decisions that only affect your own children.

In Tennessee, state law has changed this year and candidates for school board must declare a party affiliation. It's a disturbing change that should concern all of that state's residents. But the change also should rattle residents elsewhere if more states start to copy the law, as legislatures seem prone to do these days.

Many in the general public are exhausted with the squaring off that goes on in partisan politics. It's to everyone's benefit to rally against that mode of operation seeping into local boards and councils like poison. Voters have the power to do their part to make sure that doesn't happen.