BEND, OR -- There has been unusually high interest in this Bend-La Pine School Board election and Alex Pulaski, with the Oregon School Boards Association, says it mirrors what’s happening statewide. "We, as an association, worked over the last few months to try and encourage people to run for school board in Oregon; I think that’s had some effect. But, I think more to the point is what was going on nationally, since the Presidential election. It appears that a lot of people have just taken a really great interest in what’s happening at the local government level. And, an entry point to go into elected office is the school board."
There are 1,018 candidates running for school board seats in Oregon - the most since 2009 - vying for 802 open positions. In the last board elections, two years ago, there were just 817 candidates; the lowest number in a decade.
While running for the school board is considered a jumping off point for many politicians, Pulaski says it's not an "entry level position." He tells KBND News, "They make huge decisions and ones that really have lasting effects. I know that some people look at that and say, ‘Well, gosh, it’s only a school board race.’ Well, we look at it and say, ‘Yeah; it’s a school board race. That’s big stuff.' That is life-changing decisions taking place." He points out that boards make key decisions on budgets, curriculum and district leadership.
A large number, this year, are first time-candidates, which Pulaski says will lead to high turnover. "This year, we’ve seen a remarkable number in terms of incumbents who have filed to run again: 54%. So, what that means is no matter what happens in the election, nearly half – and potentially more – of the school board members, after this election, are going to be brand new." Nearly three-quarters of the races are uncontested and 6% have no candidate at all.
Pulaski is not surprised there’s been so much money spent on the campaigns for Bend-La Pine's School Board
. "You know, you start to draw some parallels with Portland, where these races get a lot of attention.They’re making decisions about tens and, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars, so it’s like running a small to medium, and sometimes big, company. I gather it’s a new phenomenon there in Bend, the kind of spending that’s taking place, but at some point that’s going to become the norm."
for more information on Deschutes County races. Jefferson County election information is available on the County Clerk's website
. Crook County election information is HERE
. Ballots are due at county elections offices by 8 p.m.