After GOP-led redistricting, major turnover expected on Wake County school board

School-Bus-794847.jpgRepublican-led redistricting in Wake County could yield a GOP majority on the governing board for North Carolina’s largest school system, The News & Observer reports.

As the paper’s T. Keung Hui notes, a 2013, GOP-backed overhaul of school board voting in Wake means at least four of the board’s nine members won’t be returning after elections this year. And with all nine seats up for grabs, Wake could be looking at a completely new board next year.

Of course, the GOP redistricting will have to survive its court challenge in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals first, but it will clearly be a pivotal year for education politics in the county.

As Hui explains:

The filing period for all nine school board seats begins Monday under the boundaries approved by Republican lawmakers in 2013. The new lines, which are being challenged in federal court, are guaranteed to cause at least some turnover because eight board members now find themselves in the same district as at least one other incumbent.

The “double bunking” and “triple bunking” of incumbents caused board member Susan Evans to run for the state Senate instead of re-election. Board members Zora Felton and Kevin Hill both say they will run only if the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates the maps adopted by the school board in 2011.

Board chairman Tom Benton is weighing whether to run against Vice Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler.

There could be a complete turnover, because all nine seats are on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“It is simply not good governance to have that kind of turnover on any board, whether it’s commissioners or the Board of Education,” Benton said. “Could you imagine what would happen if you had more than half the House or half the Senate turn over?”

The election has the potential to flip the officially nonpartisan school board from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority, and both political parties say they’ve been actively recruiting candidates.

Following the GOP-led overhaul of the county’s diversity-friendly assignment policies beginning in 2009, it’s been a tumultuous few years in the county. A Democratic majority regained control of the board in 2011, but as Policy Watch has reported, Wake County continues to grapple with increasing racial divisions in the district.

As we go forward, it will be important to continue to follow the court’s progress on the Republican redistricting, which created two regional districts spanning the entire county, as well as seven numbered districts in the county too.

Residents will be able to vote for a representative in their regional and numbered district, but Hui reported that past voting results indicate the GOP-sponsored redistricting would, indeed, produce a GOP majority on the technically nonpartisan board.

From the N&O:

Democratic voters and organizations contend in their lawsuit that the new maps unfairly weaken the power of urban voters and strengthen the suburban and rural vote. They also contend the districts are racial gerrymanders.

In February, U.S. Chief District Court Judge James C. Dever III dismissed the lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the election maps. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case May 9 as part of an expedited appeal process but hasn’t issued a ruling yet.

Stay tuned.

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