Editorial overview: Local government must remain politically free – Albert Lea Tribune

School board and local municipal council elections were once an oasis of non-partisan participation in community-level governance.

Unfortunately, this is no longer always the case.

Candidates who might 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 now see.

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

Approvals may not be in the balance just yet, but it’s clear that organized efforts, such as the Center of the American Experiment’s “Raise Our Standards” state tour last summer, have strategically motivated people to running for school boards that have a clear groupthink agenda.

Increased participation in government at the local level is a good thing — if done for the right reasons. Jumping on a bandwagon with people screaming the loudest doesn’t mean having the best interests of the student body or city residents at heart.

Being part of a board or a council is as much more than a couple of issues that got the most attention. Reviewing budgets, resolving personnel issues, developing policies, developing strategic plans, receiving committee assignments, responding to complaints from the public you serve – all of these routine but very important tasks come with winning elections and the appointment of a seat on a board or council.

Keeping local bodies non-partisan has been an asset when it comes to running a school district or city that works effectively for the general good of the public. You may not understand the life of a student who is entitled to free school meals, but it is up to you as a school board member to ensure that this child, and as many as possible , obtain as complete an education as possible. It’s not about making decisions that only affect your own children.

In Tennessee, state law changed this year and school board candidates must declare their party affiliation. This is a disturbing change that should affect all residents of this state. But the change should also rattle residents elsewhere if more states start copying the law, as legislatures seem inclined to do these days.

Many members of the general public are exhausted from the confrontation that unfolds in partisan politics. It is in everyone’s interest to rally against this modus operandi, which is seeping into local commissions and councils like a poison. Voters have the power to do their part to ensure that this does not happen.

— Mankato Free Press, July 25