Polk County opposes partisan school board bill

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, June 6, 2023

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Commissioners concerned with prioritizing education


POLK COUNTY—At its regularly scheduled meeting on June 5, the Polk County Board of Commissioners read a statement concerning their stance on a bill making its way through the NC General Assembly.

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The bill, NC House Bill 66, would require that Polk County School Board members are elected on a partisan basis. Henderson and Rutherfordton County School Boards elections are already partisan.

Chairman Tommy Melton read the official statement prepared by the Board, stating “The Polk County Board of Commissioners doubts a partisan school board is the right direction for the children of our County,” adding “There is a risk that disrupting the school board with partisan politics could remove focus from our children’s education.”

“Our children are more important. We’ve got to keep politics out of this. ”

The Board proclaimed that they “[do] not wish to alter the current non-partisan election method of the Polk County School Board,” and directed Clerk of the Board Kristy A. Tipton to send the resolution to the State Legislative Delegation and the Polk County School Board.

“We work for the people, not for the party. And this has to do a lot with our children, and our children are very important,” said Commissioner Myron Yoder. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican or Independent, it’s for the children”

If passed, the bill would make it much more difficult for 6,422 unaffiliated voters to run for school board positions. Nearly 40% of the voters in Polk County are registered as unaffiliated. 

The Board first announced in 2021 that they were against making Polk’s school board partisan.  

“Our own Board of Education feels very strongly in the same direction. The thing that troubles them the most is that they’ve voiced that, and it keeps coming up again,” said Polk Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene as he addressed the Board. “Look at the performance of school boards that have [become partisan] and what’s happened over time.”

A referendum on whether or not the school board should become a partisan office was considered in 2021, before the Board voted to take the referendum off the table. The Board expressed at the time that a move to a partisan election for the school board would make it extremely difficult for registered unaffiliated voters to run for a seat.