Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County's school board districts will be reshuffled into a new system starting in 2016 under a bill the state Senate approved Monday night.
The measure, which passed 33-17, would change school board elections from odd-numbered years when city councils are elected to the primaries of even-numbered years, when partisan candidates for the General Assembly and Congress are chosen.
"These maps were drawn without any public input, against the will of the school board and for transparently partisan reasons," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, blasting the measure as "polarizing."
Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said he was pushing the bill for two reasons. First, Hunt said he wanted to improve voter turnout, which has been light in off-year elections.
"You don't have to redistrict in order to move the election years," Stein pushed back.
Hunt said he also wanted to make sure that parents could vote for a school board member who represent the schools where their children attend school. Currently, he said, some students travel from one school board member's district to another.
Stein blasted this rationale as well.
"The irony of this bill is it doesn't even accomplish the bill sponsor's stated purpose," Stein said. "The chance your child will not (go to school) in the district where you live increases substantially under this map."
No other Republican rose to back the bill.
Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, also criticized the measure, saying it would inject race-based politics into the school board's maps.
Hunt's map converts the county's nine individual school board districts into seven individual districts. It also creates two regional districts. Voters would chose one of the seven individual members and one of the regional members.
Both Blue and Stein pointed to similarities Hunt's school board maps shared with legislative maps drawn on the basis of race.
"It offends me to the quick. It makes me want to yell," Blue said.
The measure is a local bill, which means Gov. Pat McCrory does not have a say on the matter. It now goes to the House for lawmakers there to review.