VALPARAISO | Should the School Board of Valparaiso Community Schools become an elected board or remain appointed?
Because of much recent discussion over that question, state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, wants to give residents a chance to weigh in.
Shortly after next month's election, Soliday plans to hold public meetings to gauge public sentiment on the issue.
In the meantime, he is drafting a bill to introduce in the next General Assembly that would create a part-elected, part-appointed board.
Because legislation needs to be introduced by Jan. 15 to gain a hearing, Soliday is working with the Legislative Service Agency now to draft the bill.
The bill features the hybrid board idea because that could satisfy both sides of the issue, Soliday said. But the bill's particulars can be adjusted to reflect the consensus of citizens, he said.
Under Soliday's draft proposal, the board would grow from five to seven members. Four, possibly five, of them would be elected. Of three appointed members, Soliday envisions two appointed by the council and one by the mayor. Terms would be staggered and the council also would need to align districts to achieve fair representation, he said.
If there is public interest in some form of such a bill, Soliday said he will introduce it. If not, he won't.
If he is not re-elected, the draft will be available to his successor to use or not use as he sees fit.
Soliday said he has no preference on the issue but is raising it because it has become a topic of interest among city residents. He said he understands the argument that a board that can raise taxes ought to be elected.
Larry Chubb, challenger for Soliday's District 4 seat, agreed the issue needs airing, but said discussions should happen before consideration of legislation. Drafting legislation is a form of a taking sides in the issue, he said. Local players such the mayor and City Council should be involved before state lawmakers, Chubb said.
Currently, four of the five board members are appointed by the City Council. The fifth is appointed by the Center Township board.
Of 293 school boards in Indiana, 276 are elected. Fourteen are appointed. Three are overseen by a township trustee. East Chicago has the only other appointed board in this region.
Changing the way a board is formed can be done through a decision of the board itself or a petition by residents and a referendum, according to Frank Bush, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association.
The soonest a referendum on the change could be held likely would be November 2010, Soliday said.