State Journal

March 02, 1987 2 min read

On March 8, pundits will be paying close attention to the Presidential primary election in Texas, which holds the largest bloc of delegates at stake among the “Super Tuesday” races.

But another landmark contest will be waged the same day a bit farther down the state ballot--or more precisely, at the very bottom.

Next week, elections will be held for 4 of the 15 seats on the state board of education, and primaries will be held to determine which candidates will run for the remaining 11 positions in November. A total of six incumbents are hoping to retain their seats.

State-board members were chosen by election until 1984, when the legislature voted to move to an appointed board. Last November, voters passed a constitutional amendment to reverse the process and make the posts elective once again.

Several leading educators in the state have expressed concern that the school-board election will be overshadowed by the higher-profile contests also at issue that day. Board candidates will be listed at the bottom of the ballot, behind those running for the Congress, the state legislature, state courts, and the Texas Railroad Commission.

“Historically, the state-board elections haven’t grabbed that much public attention,” and educators fear that the candidates’ placement at the end of the ballot will exacerbate the problem, said Barbara Williams, a spokesman for the Texas Association of School Boards. She said her group and others have been urging their members to do all they can to get out the vote.

Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York has backed away--at least temporarily--from his proposal to grant Mayor Edward I. Koch more direct control over New York City’s central school board.

Since the decentralization of the city’s schools in 1969, the central board has consisted of seven members, one appointed by each of the city’s five borough presidents and two named by the mayor. Critics of the current system argue that it leaves no one accountable for the board’s failures.

The Governor had proposed legislation to expand the panel to 13 members, with seven appointed by the mayor, five by the borough presidents, and one by the city’s schools chancellor.

But last month, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said that friction between Mr. Koch and several key lawmakers, plus the need to reserve the Governor’s political capital to win passage of other reforms, had combined to put the plan on the back burner.--tm