Jan 9, 2013 7:03 PM by Q2 News
BILLINGS- A wide range of topics were discussed today at a Billings Chamber of Commerce public meeting. Everything from Education 2020's focal points for the new year, to financial decisions facing the 2013 Legislature.
Topping the list however, re-examining how Billings school board members are elected.
Education 2020 Committee Chair, Lyle Knight, says that before the teacher strike in 2002, all school board members were elected "at large," which means that anyone in the district was able to run for school board trustee.
But in May of 2003, Billings voters approved new, single member district elections, meaning school board members/ candidates must live in the district they represent.
Now , in hindsight, nine years later, there are widespread concerns..
"I think the reason the community is saying that may not be such a good idea, is the qualification to run for school board, is that you live in a neighborhood." says Knight.
According to a survey done by Education 2020, only eight percent of Billings school district residents said they approve of the current election format, while a majority would like to see it changed.
But that's more difficult than it sounds.
"What has happened, once you have made that trip that we made, by going to districts to elect school board members; you can't go back. It's kind of a one way trip. We're the only school district in the state of Montana that has done that. So now we can't go all the way to at large, but we're studying about if there is a hybrid." says Knight.
That hybrid method might include electing some at large board members, while some of the board would represent specific neighborhoods.
The Education 2020 committee is now looking at how that change might be approved.
It could be a local ballot initiative, it could be accomplished through state legislation, or just simply a decision made by the Billings school board.
The chamber will be hosting a candidate school on January 29th and the 30th for anybody in school district 2 who is interested in holding a school board trustee position. A morning class will be held on the 29th at 7:30 and an evening class will be held on the 30th at 5:30.
More information on the class is available on the chamber's homepage at billingschamber.com or by emailing email@example.com