News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 9, 2014

Clay County School Board districts not equal in population

Four districts will have to be redrawn

BRAZIL — School Board electoral districts in Clay County are not equitable in terms of population and need to be revised to comply with state law.

The issue was recently brought to the attention of district officials by Travella Myers, a Clay City Parent Club member.

Tonight, the issue of redistricting is on the agenda of the Clay Community School Board, which meets at 7:30 p.m. in the central administrative office in Brazil.

The school board attorney has researched the issue, and some proposals to address it will be presented tonight, says Kim Tucker, Clay Community Schools superintendent.

“It’s something we have to do,” Tucker said.

In Clay County, three school board seats are at large, in which everyone in the entire school district votes for those candidates.

But four of the school board members have electoral districts, and only voters in that candidate’s electoral district can vote for that person.

According to state statute, those electoral districts “have to be as equal in population as practically possible,” said Lisa Tanselle, attorney with the Indiana School Board Association. The law further says that the population of the largest district should not exceed the smallest by more than 15 percent.

Districts need to be redrawn, if necessary, by Dec. 31 in the year after the 10-year U.S. census. That would have been Dec. 31, 2011.

“We are out of compliance,” according to Myers, who, along with other parent club members has advocated on behalf of Clay City schools and believes they have not been treated equitably with other schools, including Northview.

Currently, District 4, which includes Clay City, has 7,169 residents, while District 1 has 5,927 people. It’s not equitable because those in District 1 have a greater voice than those in District 4, Myers said. “We’re under-represented, she said.

A representative of the Clay County election office has laid out new districts that would adhere to state code and bring the school board districts within the state-mandated parameters, Myers said. District 4 would have 6,410 people, while District 1 would have 6,445; District 2 would have 6,555 and District 3, 6,410.

Currently, there is a 19.3 percent deviation, she said, and the proposed changes would bring that down to a 3.75 percent deviation.

The matter is up for discussion tonight, but no action is planned. The board will be presented with different options, said attorney Jeff Boyll.

The board can choose to redistrict electoral boundaries based on the proposal already drawn up; members can decide on different electoral district boundaries; or the board can go to a system in which all voters in the entire school district vote for all seven school board members.

If the board chooses the last option, the redistricting would not be necessary, he said.

If the board continues with the electoral districts, it must redraw those boundaries, as indicated by state law. Currently, the districts with fewer residents have more “voting power,” he said.

Once the board acts at a future meeting, that action will have to be published and there would be a 120-day public comment period, Boyll said. If 20 percent of voters objected, there would have to be a special election, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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