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School board election was the right move

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Staff Editorial

Iowa City school board members made the right call last Tuesday when they voted to fill Tom Yates’ vacant seat by election, not appointment.

As we argued late last month, voters deserve the chance fill Yates’ post.

We disagree with those who see special elections as a costly hassle. They are a critical component of our democracy, giving citizens a say in the direction of public institutions. Appointments have their place, but not — as was the case here — when a board member steps down with more than three years left in his four-year term.

According to Gazette news reports, board members had a change of heart when they learned that their appointee would serve only until the general election in November, not the next school board election, as they’d initially thought.

Turns out the hassle of adding a school board seat to a general election ballot was greater — and costlier — than it would be to hold a special election in July.

So it was cost and inconvenience, anyway, that persuaded board members to choose election, not appointment. But all’s well that ends well, as the saying goes. Iowa City school district voters will have their say.

They should mark their calendars now and make it a priority to turn up at the polls on July 19.

After all, one of the reasons school board members gave for their initial inclination to appoint was their fear that few voters would turn out to vote. Even in the best of years, turnout in school elections is consistently, embarrassingly low.

School board elections are important. Like many districts, the Iowa City school board has been facing tough decisions necessitated by tight budgets. They’ve been discussing critical — and often divisive — issues, including school boundary changes and managing district growth.

Any voter who cares about the education of our children and direction of Iowa City schools has a responsibility to turn out in July. Those who do will have a chance to help shape the board’s direction and decisions for years to come.

Those people interested in running for the vacancy have until Jun 24 to collect signatures and submit petitions to get on the ballot. We’ll publish more information about candidates in these pages.

Then it’s up to voters to do their duty; to exercise their right to vote.

• 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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