Another odd-number year Election Day, another school board election with slates of candidates in Jefferson County. We deserve better.
While school board members in Jefferson County represent specific districts, they are elected at-large with all voters allowed to vote in every district. As slates win or lose, it is less likely that differences among members lead to meaningful debate or discussion on even the most controversial issues. With that dynamic, we tend to elect school board members who are likely to see most issues the same way as their colleagues and constituents who disagree are left without a voice.
Lest you think this discussion is sour grapes because the candidates I supported lost, that is not the case. The slate (yes, despite my opposition to candidates running in slates, I, like most people in Jeffco, voted that way) that I voted for won. However, we would be better served if we make a couple fundamental changes to how we select school board members in this county.
First, board members should be chosen by voters who live in their districts, not from the county at-large. In a county as big as this one, people who live in different parts of the county often see the world differently from people who live in other parts of the county. At-large selection does not allow the voices of people from disparate parts of the county to be heard in a way that voting by district would.
Second, it makes sense for us to increase the number of board members from five to seven. More districts with fewer people in each district would make it more likely that each school board member will reflect the beliefs and values of his or her constituents. A more diverse board will inevitably result in school board discussions and debates that ensure that a wider range of thoughts and belilefs are considered.
Similar arguments can (and should) be made about how we elect county commissioners. Given the budget difficulties Jefferson County currently faces, now may not be the time to make this change, but we should re-open the debate about going from three to five county commissioners and electing them by district instead of at-large.
But the time is ripe for us to change how we elect school board before the next school board elections in 2023. To ensure a board that more accurately reflects voters from throughout our county and to encourage more independence by each board member, we should increase the number of school board members from five to seven and elect them by district instead of at-large.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.