Referendum would prevent voters from selecting school board members outside their district.
A referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot could change the way School District of Manatee County school board members are elected starting with the 2020 race.
School board members, no matter what district they represent, have been elected by a countywide vote. The five members each represent a district, but they are selected by all the voters.
If the referendum passes, voters would be allowed to vote for the board member only representing their district.
“Countywide voting discourages good candidates,” said school board member Dave Miner. “It is difficult and expensive for a countywide school board to have a credible campaign without taking a good deal of money from their own pocket or having a developer who funds a countywide campaign,” Miner said. “It’s expensive and it favors candidates who are incumbents and well known.”
Jessica Patterson, a Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary parent, says it’s important to have a countywide vote. She filed to run for school board in May but ultimately had to withdraw from her campaign for personal reasons. She said she knows the issue from the perspective of a politician.
“I’m voting no,” Patterson said. “It would have been much easier for me to campaign just in District 5, but all five school board members are making decisions for all of our schools. I think it’s really important that we all have a vote on everyone who makes decisions for our children.”
Patterson said costing politicians money shouldn’t be a reason to take away the ability to vote for all the school board members.
“I don’t understand how it got on the ballot,” Patterson said. “It just decreases the cost of campaigning. It’s not good for our children and our schools.”