Why the county school board matters to you

Johnson City Press • Jul 19, 2018 at 8:15 AM

When it comes to elections, nothing has more direct impact on family life than local ballots. Your taxes, schools, parks, roads, employment opportunities and more are at stake.

Yet most of you only turn out to vote every four years during presidential elections. In the 2016 national election, a whopping 50,432 Washington County residents or 63.73 percent of 79,139 registered voters went to the polls. By contrast, only about 12,000 people voted in May’s Washington County primaries.

You can buck that trend by turning out for local general elections taking place between now and Aug. 2. Washington County has a handful of contested commission races, and Republican nominee Joe Grandy is facing Independent candidate James Reeves for county mayor.

But the big draw likely will be Washington County’s Board of Education races. The fallout from Kimber Halliburton’s brief, controversial tenure as the school district’s director and the stalemate over Jonesborough’s school building project are sure to generate high interest.

That’s one reason we agreed to cosponsor a school board candidate forum with unopposed Washington County Commission candidate Jodi Jones next week. Eight of nine candidates competing for the six seats (three seats in each of two districts) are expected to participate in the July 26 event at Johnson City’s Memorial Park Community Center.

We expect Jonesborough parents to be out in droves at the polls, and heated primary races at the state and national level will bring out more voters in general.

But all county voters, including those who live Johnson City, should care about the county school board races. Why would a city resident whose kids attend city schools care about the county’s school board? Math.

Both Johnson City and Washington County schools share funding on a per-pupil basis, so when county school board members press the County Commission for additional operational support, city students benefit. When the county issues bonds for building projects, the city receives a share of those proceeds — in theory at least. City officials have cried foul about the county’s most recent bond scheme, saying it shortchanges city schools. That’s a big reason to care.

Math also tells us that you should care about the county school board because of the effect education has on economic development in the county. Employers are much more likely to locate in an area that provides an educated workforce.

Whether you live in Johnson City or somewhere else in the county, you’ve got plenty of reasons to listen when the candidates speak at our forum on the 26th. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in Memorial Park’s dining room.

Early voting runs through July 28. Election Day is Aug. 2.

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