Change when school boards are elected?
Illinois voters could start picking school board members in the same elections they pick senators and members of Congress under a suburban Democrat's plan that got moving Wednesday.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, said he wants to make the change because turnout is much lower during local elections where school board members now are chosen and school districts make up most of homeowners' property tax bills.
"We need to do as much as possible to increase voter participation for school board elections," Cullerton said. "We can't force people to go out and vote but we can take steps to make it easier."
The elections would remain nonpartisan, and the new election cycle would start for school boards in 2018. The Illinois Senate approved the plan Wednesday, sending it to the House.
In April in suburban Cook County, about 14 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots. In the 2012 presidential election, turnout was nearly 71 percent.
If school boards are so important, why not move the election of mayors and other local officials, too?
Cullerton said it's because school board races don't have primaries. For mayors, it would be tough to have nonpartisan primary elections at the same time as a partisan primary.
The plan isn't related to one from state Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, that would make a similar change for community college trustees. That idea came up in the wake of College of DuPage's board giving President Robert Breuder a large severance package.