Republicans on the Senate Elections Committee voted Tuesday to approve House Bill (HB) 1222 along party lines. If passed into law, HB 1222 would, among other things, forbid local communities from putting school funding referenda up for a vote any time except November general elections. School funding referenda have long provided a way for local school districts to make up for the state’s shoddy school funding formula, which often siphons a disproportionate amount of taxpayer money to affluent school districts as well as the charter and virtual schools.
Typically, school district budgets begin in July, so funding referenda on the May primary ballot, right before the new budget year, are a common way for schools to plan ahead for the finances, but Republicans on the committee argued voter turnout in primary elections is too low to allow school funding referenda. This is yet another attack on our public schools. Funding referenda are the saving grace of local school districts coming up on their new budget year, and HB 1222 would take that crucial funding tool away from voters in these local communities.
If Republicans were really concerned with voter turnout in primary elections they would make it easier to get to the polls. Senate Democrats proposed three amendments to increase voter participation while HB 1222 was under consideration by the Elections Committee. Two would help small towns set up and fund their primary elections, and the third would extend polling hours until 8 p.m. on Election Day. All three were handily defeated by Republicans.
HB 1222 is a dizzying mashup of amendments that not only steals local school districts’ ability to raise funds themselves, but also abolishes town election boards, adds confusing language to straight ticket ballots and undercuts the local party nomination process.
HB 1222 is a Christmas tree bill – decorated with so many amendments it would put the Monument Circle Tree to shame. This bill takes away local control of the election process and leaves schools flying blind right when it’s time to begin writing their budgets. If HB 1222 is passed into law, this attack on local governments will bring nothing but pain for Hoosiers in small towns and beyond.