IDAHO FALLS — School elections will share the ballot with city elections on Tuesday.
But they won’t necessarily get an equal share of the spotlight.
Only one eastern Idaho district is seeking a property tax levy. Lemhi County voters will decide whether to join the College of Eastern Idaho’s property tax district. And for the first time, Idaho voters will elect school trustees during a November election — but many voters won’t even notice the difference, because most school board races won’t even appear on the ballot.
Tuesday’s school board elections
After years of false starts and failed bills, the 2018 Legislature finally engineered the shift to November trustee elections. The law, a compromise between Republican bill sponsors and the Idaho School Boards Association, puts trustees’ races on the same ballot with elections for mayor and City Council. Like trustees’ elections, municipal elections are nonpartisan.
Lawmakers wanted to move school board races from May to November in hopes of addressing a chronic issue: abysmal voter turnout.
It’s too early, of course, to know whether the move will improve voter turnout. But this year’s trustee elections didn’t exactly attract a crowd of candidates.
All told, 274 school board terms are expiring this fall, according to an Idaho Education News analysis. But the vast majority of these races won’t appear on the ballot, since only one candidate filed to run. Under state law, districts can call off a school board election if only one candidate is running.
In a dozen races, no candidates filed at all, which means the trustee seats will be vacant.
So what’s left? Sixty-two contested races in 40 school districts — barely a third of Idaho’s 115 districts.
Here’s the full rundown of contested board races in eastern Idaho:
Bear Lake County: Zone 1: Kade Grunig, Richard Smart (both are write-in candidates).
Blackfoot: Zone 2: Carlos Mercado (incumbent), Karen Clark Driscoll.
Challis: Zone 2: Trish Farr (incumbent), David Philps.
Firth: Zone 2: Brian Esplin (incumbent), Robyn S. Mitchell.
Idaho Falls: Zone 3: Lara Hill (incumbent), Jim De Angelis. Zone 4: G. Larry Haws (incumbent), Elizabeth Cogliati, Jacob Johnson.
Oneida: Zone 3: Kirk Willie (incumbent), Mary B. Young. Zone 4: Chalae Cox Teeples, Patrick Evans (write-in).
Pocatello-Chubbuck: Zone 3: James Facer, Eric Lee Stewart. Zone 4: Paul Vitale (incumbent), Oliver Ormsby Ahmu, Idaho Lorax Carta.
Salmon: Zone 3: Gerald “Jerry” Holley, Chuck Overacker.
South Lemhi: Zone 4: Aleta M. Ries, Christopher Staley.
Swan Valley: Zone 1: Jessica Poole (incumbent), David D. McClure (write-in).
Teton County: Zone 1: Jackie D. Cooke, Shannon Brooks Hamby. Zone 2: Debbie M. Hunt, Ticia Sheets. Zone 5: Nan Pugh (incumbent), Alexie Schiess Hulme, Cricket Romanzi.
West Jefferson: Zone 1: Burton D. Allen (incumbent), Andrea Rigby.
Tuesday’s school levies
Swan Valley: Five-year, $500,000 plant facilities levy. The rural Bonneville County elementary district says its top priority is an upgraded heating system. The district also hopes to replace a school bus and finish upgrades recommended by the state’s Office of School Safety and Security. The plant facilities levy needs a 55 percent supermajority to pass. In May, a larger, $2.1 million proposal received only 15 percent support.
Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.
This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on October 31, 2019.