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Let voters choose I.C. school board replacement

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The Iowa City Community School District’s board has decided it will move to appoint a replacement for Tom Yates, who resigned from the board this month — just seven months into his four-year term. The board is set to review applications for the seat on June 7.

But we believe the vacancy should be filled by district voters in a special election this summer.

Yates’ resignation has left the board, and the community, in a tough spot. We can understand the temptation to simply appoint a board member to fill his seat until the next school election in September 2017. A special election could cost as much as $20,000. A midsummer election likely would draw low turnout — lower even than regular school board elections, which already draw too few voters to the polls.

But even if only a small fraction of eligible voters participate, a special election still is the right decision. Interested citizens, parents and taxpayers who deeply care about Iowa City schools deserve the opportunity to weigh in at the ballot box.

This board has been divided in its opinions on important issues. In his short tenure, Yates cast key votes concerning recently approved school boundary changes that could be revisited during the next several months while an appointed board member serves. That’s just one example of many that could be addressed by the board. Is responsible for overseeing a $273 million budget — taxpayers deserve a say in deciding who will help hold the purse strings. Voters, not board members, should decide who will best represent community interests.

An elected board member would lend more credibility to board decisions, and stability. An elected member would serve out the rest of Yates’ four-year term.

The good news is a special election still is possible.

If the board can’t find consensus on an appointee within 30 days, a special election automatically will be triggered in mid July.

Voters also can petition for an election by collecting roughly 2,200 signatures by June 2.

Elections are an important chance for citizens to have an say in how public institutions are managed, not a costly hassle that should be sidestepped for convenience. We urge the school board to reconsider its decision and put the pick in the hands of district voters.

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Share your comments and ideas with us: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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