Partisan election, redistricting, mean changes for Hamilton County school board

Staff photo by Tim Barber | The sun sets on the facade of the Hamilton County Department of Education.

General elections for local offices are less than a week away, and when they're over, the Hamilton County school board may look quite different - and so might the district's libraries.

This year marks the first in Tennessee history that school board candidates are running on partisan tickets, a change made last year as the Republican-controlled legislature sought to respond to its political base in a special session aimed at reining in mask and vaccine mandates during the pandemic.

Twelve partisan candidates and two independents will face off in contested school board elections on Thursday. Those on both sides of the aisle have expressed discomfort during the campaign with making school boards partisan, but their differences have shown.

The most visible sticking point between the parties has been the school materials policy: Who controls what children can read and learn? Generally, Republicans favor parental oversight, while Democrats say they trust educators and librarians to make age-appropriate selections.