Redrawing county school board divisions
Kentucky School Advocate
By Eric Kennedy
KSBA Director of Advocacy
Each member of a county school board is elected to represent a geographic “division” of the school district, just as members of county fiscal courts and state legislators are elected to represent the geographic area in which they reside. As such, county school board divisions must be reviewed and adjusted as necessary, in a process called “redistricting” or “reapportionment,” to ensure constitutional “one person, one vote” equal representation.
Who draws board division lines?
Pursuant to KRS 160.210, the county school board is charged with drawing its own division lines, with each division “containing integral voting precincts and as equal in population insofar as is practicable.” Any changes made “shall be to make divisions as equal in population and containing integral voting precincts insofar as is practical.” By law, no change may be made less than five years after the last change, except in cases of district mergers, annexations, or to comply with certain election laws or court orders.
Why are we only talking about county school boards?
Boards of independent districts are elected at-large, and therefore have no divisions and no need to draw or adjust any division lines.
When can a board undertake this process?
A county board may review and adjust divisions at almost any time as may be necessary to reasonably maintain equality of the divisions’ population. A common time to do this is following the release of the U.S. Census data every 10 years, which is when each fiscal court and the state legislature redraw their lines. The data of the 2020 Census, while initially delayed, has now been released, and some county boards have already finished redrawing their divisions based on that data. Some are in the process of doing so now, in conjunction with their fiscal courts. Fiscal courts have their own statutory process and deadlines that apply to them which do not apply to school boards, and many of them are adjusting their lines now or will be soon.
Do board divisions have to align with fiscal court divisions?
The school board and fiscal court divisions may align, but they do not have to. In fact, depending on local circumstances, this may be impossible. Fiscal courts across Kentucky have different numbers of members, and any fiscal court with more or fewer than five members would be unable to align with the divisions of the five-member school board. Also, the population figures may be different, because any independent school district within a county would mean the population of the county school board is different than the fiscal court, since residents of the independent school district would not be taken into account for drawing county school board divisions.
How should a board begin this process?
The best first step in this process is to obtain population and precinct information, and to compare your lines to those of the fiscal court, etc., by contacting your county clerk. The county clerks are key to this process because they chair the county board of elections, and they create election ballots according to which offices are being elected by which precincts in the county. Aside from the school board’s action to set and approve its own division lines, the most important person in this process is the county clerk.
For more information on this process, review KRS 160.210 and consult with your local county clerk.